Sedentary work, sedentary entertainment, a dislike of physical activity and an addiction to snacks of all kinds: this is the recipe for gaining excess weight and the road to obesity. But scientists from the University of Exeter (UK) decided to use computer addiction for good . The results of the experiment, published in the magazine Appetite , are encouraging – with the help of gameplay, it was possible to reduce the addiction to snacks in people. About 2/3 of UK residents (and the same number in the US) are overweight or obese. The reasons are usually lack of physical activity and unhealthy diet, the habit of constantly snacking and choosing high-calorie snacks. Dr. Natalia Lawrence of the University of Exeter and her colleagues have developed a simple game that teaches good habits. During the game , various pictures with images of food, clothes and other things appeared on the computer screen . The subjects’ task was to click on images of things and healthy foods (fruits), and refrain from clicking on all kinds of cookies and chips. Thus, the subjects were brought up the “stop” reflex in relation to harmful snacks. The experiment was carried out for 10 minutes daily for a week.
The results were assessed by weighing and diaries of the subjects, which they kept one week before and one week after the experiment. It turned out that after a week of such training, people have a stop-reflex in relation to junk food, which, judging by their late reports, persists for six months after training. At the same time , two active groups of people participated in the experiment. The first group of 41 people trained on pictures of healthy and unhealthy food. The second, 42 people, received a greater variety of pictures – they also encountered pictures of inedible things.
By comparison with a control group of subjects, the program trained people for a week after the experiment lost an average of 700 grams of weight and began to eat less by 220 kcal per day. In a previous study, the same research team tested the effect of such exercise on what and how much people eat in a controlled environment (in the laboratory). “This is one of the first data to prove that a simple computer tool, after a short use, can affect people’s eating habits,” says Dr. Natalia Lawrence. – It is very exciting to watch how laboratory experiments are transferred to the real world. While these studies are in their infancy and they need to continue. More extensive research is needed. But it is already clear that it is worth it. These are quite simple and almost free experiments, and 88% of their participants reacted positively to the idea of their continuation, and would recommend participation in them to their friends. “