Where's My Monitoring?

06 Mar 2008

Jenn and I were recently arguing about taking vitamin and other dietary supplements. Historically, I’d been rather dismissive towards them because they always felt very pseudo-scientific, but I’d never really thought about why it was that I felt that way.

Obviously it’s possible that they’re filling a very real need, particularly for people who have unusual diets (we’re vegetarian for example, which isn’t particularly unusual these days, but might be considered unusual on an evolved-from-monkeys-timescale). But (and it’s a big but), there’s really no practical way to know what effect of taking these things is. You could go for a weekly battery of blood/skin/whatever tests, but that’s both costly and time-consuming. Other than that, it falls to either correlation with secondary effects, or “how I feel” both of which are way too heavily influenced by other things going on in life and placebo effects.

Visiting any supplement or “natural”-something-or-other store reveals thousands of random options. The thing that really bothers me, is that if it they turn out not to be helping, at best you’re wasting a lot of money (if they’re doing nothing), but at worst, you could be creating health problems by ingesting mixes of things that really aren’t good for you.

So, getting to the point of all this, why can’t I monitor myself yet? I think this would pretty clearly be a game-changing startup: I stick my finger in a little machine before I get in the shower in the morning and it grabs some blood and skin (and maybe occasionally I give it some hair as a little treat). Then, it chugs away extracting as much useful information as is possible from the samples (lots and lots and lots of info in there!). Add a WiFi connection to it, and it doesn’t need any interface at all, just the ability to upload data to either a local machine, or preferably to a suitably encrypted and secured web site. The web site can give me a history of changes, monitor for flucuations, highlight defiencies (and maybe suggest supplements or diet modifications), or tell me that now would be a damn good idea to go see an MD or nutritionist.

So, where the heck is my simple desktop monitoring system?