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Study: Brain training game helps resist unhealthy snack foods

brain_snacks

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Online game ‘may con­trol snack­ing’ (BBC News):

A com­put­er game may help some peo­ple con­trol their unhealthy snack­ing habits, sug­gests a small study from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Exeter.

The online game, devel­oped by psy­chol­o­gists at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Exeter and Cardiff Uni­ver­si­ty, used “brain train­ing” tech­niques to change behav­iour — in this case, to resist unhealthy snack foods. It required peo­ple to avoid press­ing a key when an unhealthy food appeared on the screen…The results showed that par­tic­i­pants lost an aver­age of 1.5lb (0.7kg) and con­sumed around 220 few­er calo­ries a day dur­ing the week of train­ing. Food diaries in the fol­low­ing six months sug­gest­ed that the par­tic­i­pants main­tained their improved habits…

Dr Natalia Lawrence, from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Exeter, who led the research, said the game had the abil­i­ty to change some people’s eat­ing behav­iour, but it was still ear­ly days. “… our find­ings sug­gest that this cog­ni­tive train­ing approach is worth pur­su­ing: it is free, easy to do and 88% of our par­tic­i­pants said they would be hap­py to keep doing it.”

Study: Train­ing response inhi­bi­tion to food is asso­ci­at­ed with weight loss and reduced ener­gy intake (Appetite)

  • Abstract: The major­i­ty of adults in the UK and US are over­weight or obese due to mul­ti­ple fac­tors includ­ing excess ener­gy intake. Train­ing peo­ple to inhib­it sim­ple motor respons­es (key press­es) to high-ener­gy den­si­ty food pic­tures reduces intake in lab­o­ra­to­ry stud­ies. We exam­ined whether online response inhi­bi­tion train­ing reduced real-world food con­sump­tion and weight in a com­mu­ni­ty sam­ple of adults who were pre­dom­i­nant­ly over­weight or obese (N = 83). Par­tic­i­pants were allo­cat­ed in a ran­domised, dou­ble-blind design to receive four 10-min ses­sions of either active or con­trol go/no-go train­ing in which either high-ener­gy den­si­ty snack foods (active) or non-food stim­uli (con­trol) were asso­ci­at­ed with no-go sig­nals. Par­tic­i­pants’ weight, ener­gy intake (cal­cu­lat­ed from 24-h food diaries), dai­ly snack­ing fre­quen­cy and sub­jec­tive food eval­u­a­tions were mea­sured for one week pre- and post-inter­ven­tion. Par­tic­i­pants also pro­vid­ed self-report­ed weight and month­ly snack­ing fre­quen­cy at pre-inter­ven­tion screen­ing, and one month and six months after com­plet­ing the study. Par­tic­i­pants in the active rel­a­tive to con­trol con­di­tion showed sig­nif­i­cant weight loss, reduc­tions in dai­ly ener­gy intake and a reduc­tion in rat­ed lik­ing of high-ener­gy den­si­ty (no-go) foods from the pre-to post-inter­ven­tion week. There were no changes in self-report­ed dai­ly snack­ing fre­quen­cy. At longer-term fol­low-up, the active group showed sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tions in self-report­ed weight at six months, whilst both groups report­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly less snack­ing at one- and six-months. Excel­lent rates of adher­ence (97%) and pos­i­tive feed­back about the train­ing sug­gest that this inter­ven­tion is accept­able and has the poten­tial to improve pub­lic health by reduc­ing ener­gy intake and over­weight.)

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