Scientists say a computer game could be the key to lasting weight loss as it turns people off fatty foods. In the game, players press either ‘stop’ or ‘go’ when an image of food comes up on the screen.
The idea is to train the brain to associate high-calorie and unhealthy foods with the act of ‘stopping’. In the trial, pictures of foods like chocolate, biscuits and crisps fell into the ‘stop’ category, while healthy foods like fruit and vegetables elicited a ‘go’ response.
Participants of the trial varied in weight, ranging from a healthy BMI of 21 to an obese 46. The volunteers lost 1.5lb in a week after completing four 10-minute game sessions. Six months later they had lost 4.5lbs and reported a decreased ‘like’ in unhealthy snacks.
Scientists think this online game, which one day will be playable on smartphones, could help people change their eating habits and combat obesity.
A control group played the same game, but used non-food related images. The results found that those in the ‘active’ group consumed 220 less calories per day when compared to the control group. Interestingly as well, the control group did not lose weight, in fact their average weight increased very slightly by 6oz.
Dr Natalia Lawrence, lead scientist from the University of Exeter said the following:
“These findings are among the first to suggest that a brief, simple computerised tool can change people’s everyday eating behaviour.
“It is exciting to see the effects of our lab studies translate to the real world. This research is still in its infancy and the effects are modest – larger, registered trials with longer-term measures need to be conducted.”
She goes on to say that their findings suggest cognitive training like this is worth pursuing and that 88% of those who took part would be happy to continue doing it and would recommend it to a friend.