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Study: Brain training game helps resist unhealthy snack foods



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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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