A game which trains the brain to avoid unhealthy food such as cakes, biscuits and chocolate can lead to ‘pain free’ weight loss and cut energy intake by more than 200 calories a day, scientists have said.
Psychologists at the University of Exeter showed that less than ten minutes a day of ‘brain training’ using a game which takes away the ‘mental reward’ of sugary and fatty foods, reduces calorie intake.
Professor Natalia Lawrence’s Food Trainer app (…) is based on neuroscience research which suggests people are more inclined to choose fatty and sugary foods because they activate the brain’s reward system, stimulating the release of dopamine and endorphins, which can produce feelings of pleasure and make the person want more. The game works by flashing up pictures of healthy and unhealthy food and the user has to react by only pressing on the healthy foods to score points. The simple act of ignoring unhealthy foods, and stimulating the reward response to healthy foods is enough to retrain the brain into craving healthier options, say scientists.
A study of 83 adults showed that people who played the game online just four times in one week lost weight and ate an average of 220 kcal less per day – roughly equivalent to a chocolate-iced doughnut. “It’s very exciting to see that our simple training can change eating habits and have a positive impact on some people’s lives,” said Dr Lawrence. “In an age where unhealthy food is so abundant and easily available and obesity is a growing health crisis, we need to design innovative ways to support people to live more healthily. We are optimistic that the way this app is devised will actually encourage people to opt for healthy food such as fruit and vegetables rather than junk food.”
Users of the app, who should ideally use it for a few minutes a day without distractions, can tailor it to reduce compulsions to unhealthy food they have most problem with, as well as alcohol, but not to reduce consumption of healthy foods including vegetables.
Source: The Telegraph