Chia Hwu

Chia Hwu

Trust Your Results: Afternoon Sessions on Food and Health

In the last session of the day, we had a few experimental talks on noticing how food changes physical condition. It was also an interesting series of talks that shows the importance of collecting our own subjective data to back up or refute the other technological data that we might also have access to.

I kicked off the session with my talk “Quantifying My Genetics: Why I have been banned from caffeine”. My colleagues and friends helped me quantify my behavior after one, two, or three cups of coffee by giving my agitation a number from 0-10.

I found out that I’m a slow caffeine metabolizer from my genetic results and it seems like there is a correlation between how caffeine affects me and my genes. My genes are not deterministic, I couldn’t have known how caffeine affects me without making my own independent observations.

On a fun note, the crowd guessed that I had one cup of caffeine today, they were right, I had a cup of tea earlier down in the restaurant, away from the conference.

Next we had Martha Rotter who talked about how she experimented with her diet to solve her skin problems after doctors told her there was not much she could do. She did one allergy test where the results said she was allergic to chicken and soy- but after cutting out both of those foods, she did not see any changes but it gave her the idea to test different food groups.

After her experiment with a chicken and soy-less diet, she tried a few other food groups, eventually hitting on cutting out dairy. Her skin cleared up within two weeks of stopping drinking milk, eating cheese.

I think the take away message from our two sessions this afternoon, don’t be afraid to do your own testing, trust in your results.

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Quantifying Emotions and Body Sensations

Georgios Papastefanou gave us an overview of the emotions and sensations that can be measured through a device. Tiredness is measured as a decrease in sympathetic nervous system activation. Fear also has very distinct physical markers.

Happiness is more difficult to quantify. There’s also a difference between the self-reported emotions of young men vs what their physiological data indicates. There’s a greater correlation between the self-report and data in women.

Just using the tracking devices has changed behavior for Georgios himself. His suggestion is to give a mobile measurement device to someone who is dealing with obesity and ask them to mark their feelings of hunger. If someone is more aware of how hungry they are feeling, they get  a good feedback loop of when they are eating due to hunger pangs vs. other reasons they have for eating.

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iYou Accumulates Smart Phone Data

Niels Schrader and Bert Kommerij presented their data tracking via a smartphone. They tracked their SMS’s over time and distance, ran some simple analytics like how many smiley’s were used in messages.

It’s passive tracking with what people are doing with their smart phones now, with analytics.

In the future, this is the kind of tracking that will matter, the mobile device is a very personal device and with the layers of information that such a hardware heavy gadget can accumulate, trends can be found.

They invite you to sign up at and see what you can find out about your behavior over time, as seen from your phone.

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Genetics Communities and the Future of Genes

I led a very interesting discussion at Quantified Self Europe this morning with about 10 attendees with a variety of backgounds. There were entrepreneurs who wanted to start genetic information based companies, a designer, a think tank analyst, and people who are just interested in where the field is and where it was going.

The first thing we did was to create an impromptu community, putting the chairs into a circle and starting the discussion with what brought each of us to the topic of Creating Genetic Communities. This is where the conversation started but the topics ranged from where the industry is going to how to use design to help a non-technical audience understand their genetic data.

There was agreement in the room that the price of DNA sequencing is decreasing exponentially, the discussion then moved to what an individual can do with their own data vs. getting aggregate genetic data. There was an intense debate about open data vs. transparency of who has access vs. private databases. There was also a challenge thrown out by two group members to make genetic information more actionable.

It’s an amazing group of people who have come together in Amsterdam to discuss where we are going as we get more data on ourselves.

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