Lumen's technology is based on the very real metabolic measurement called respiratory quotient (RQ). For decades scientists and dieticians have used RQ to determine how a body is metabolizing macronutrients and which energy pathways are being individually favored, from carbohydrates to fat.
The RQ value for a person is calculated by measuring the volume of carbon dioxide produced by the body, compared to the level of oxygen consumed by the body. Traditionally, this is tested using a complex breathing apparatus connected to a computer that tracks your breathing for around 20 minutes. RQ is usually presented as a decimal between 0.6 and 1.0, with 1.0 indicating your body is metabolizing energy mostly from carbohydrates, and around 0.7 signaling your body is mostly burning fat.
RQ is most certainly a real, and valuable, metabolic benchmark that scientists can derive a great deal of information from regarding an individual's overall health. Lumen's big claim is that it can generate an accurate RQ measurement from just a single breath.
The company producing the device claims to have developed the technology over the course of several years of research. Multiple studies are said to have been conducted at institutions such as San Francisco State University and Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, and verified it achieves similar RQ measurements when compared to a 60 minute medical-grade analytic device.
Instead of delivering your RQ value as a dry decimal, Lumen translates that data into a spectrum that spans fat to carbs and then suggests meal plans that can optimize your day according to your specific metabolic profile. Via a paired app, the system can subsequently track your sleep and activity to constantly modulate its recommendations.
This is undeniably a fascinating approach to tracking health and fitness, and while the company suggests its patent-pending technology is accurate, we will have to just take their word for it.
There is a hint of "too good to be true" to the technological development at its core, translating a metabolic measurement that classically needs up to an hour of analysis and large machines, into a tiny hand held device that only needs a single breath. However, the makers of Lumen call it breakthrough technology, and if it works as claimed then it surely is, although it's difficult to not be a little skeptical about the fundamental claims.
Still, the crowdfunding game is all about exciting moonshot ideas and this certainly fits the bill. The company smashed its Indiegogo goal soon after launching the campaign. The current super early-bird price is US$179 (or $199 if you miss that window), and shipping is expected to commence in February 2019 if all goes to plan. After several years of prototype development and beta testing, the consumer device is reportedly ready to move into manufacturing stages later this year.