What if the real key to shedding unwanted pounds and keeping them off is not any diet (and there are a multitude of them) but simply counting each bite that goes into the mouth?

A group of researchers from Clemson University led by Eric Muth developed a "bite counter", which they used in a study to track how much an individual has eaten based on wrist motion.

The device is wrist-mounted that tracks wrist movement each time the user brings food to the mouth. It ultimately measures the amount of food consumed by the user.

Muth explained the importance of self-monitoring and its link to health maintenance. He underscored that losing weight and weight loss maintenance is very difficult.

The bite counter is just a means to help a person be aware of how much they are eating in real time, he said. It does not help people choose what to eat.

The data then allows the user to make an informed decision whether or not to keep putting food in the mouth or to stop eating before reaching the point of overeating, Muth explained.

Two groups of participants, 200 in all, were involved in the team's study.

The subjects ate meals together to mimic a restaurant setting. One group wore bite counters while the others did not. The groups were further divided into sub-groups depending on plate size and food amount.

Subjects eating from large plates averaged 4.5 bites more than those with small plates. However, subjects with bite counters showed a significant reduction in food intake.

The second set of tests bears similar procedures as the first but participants were instructed to take either 12 or 22 bites. Subjects required to take 12 bites had fewer, but larger bites, compared to subjects instructed to take more bites.

The team estimated that calorie intake for both groups was roughly the same. The researchers also took note of the subjects’ average weight levels.

They found that results might vary when conducted with an overweight test group. Experts agree that keeping a food diary helps diet takers be more aware of what they eat, thus making them more conscious of their food consumption. They also advise people not to rush dieting, but rather make small daily changes.

"Weight loss and weight gain do not happen in a single bite or even a single meal," Muth advised. "The key is to change your behavior slowly over time in a way that your body and mind can adjust to these changes." MIMS