Sugar is considered to be a devil in much of the nutritional community these days. It is blamed for the obesity epidemic, increased rates of diabetes, and many other maladies that are on the rise. But the stuff is readily available just about everywhere in all kinds of enticing formats, so self-control is a major part of regulating sugar intake on the individual level.
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Researchers at Drexel University have now developed a video game that has been shown to reduce players’ want of sugar, thereby hopefully leading to an improvement in overall health. “Added sugar is one of the biggest culprits of excess calories and is also associated with several health risks including cancer,” said Evan Forman, a psychology professor at Drexel who was one of the leads of the study. “For these reasons, eliminating added sugar from a person’s diet results in weight loss and reduced risk of disease.”
The “brain training” game called Diet DASH that the team developed involves a simulation of the user walking through a supermarket and deciding whether to take or leave different items that are presented. The idea is to target the area of the brain responsible for impulse control so that when a player ends up in a real-life supermarket, they’re not as prone to grab sugary sweets from the aisle shelves. “Cognitive, or ‘brain, training’ games have been used to help people reduce unhealthy habits, like smoking,” Forman added. “We were also seeing positive results from labs using computer training programs.”
Players, who were people that enjoyed sweets, played the game repeatedly over a period of a few weeks. They also attended a workshop that explained the harms related to added sugar. As they played the game, the goal of which is to correctly, and as quickly as possible, choose what should go into a shopping cart, the computer threw in suggestions for their personal favorite treats.
The researchers monitored what the sugary foods that the study participants consumed throughout the investigation, which showed that for over half of the players that enjoyed sweets, the game led to an on-average loss of 3.1% body weight over a period of two months. Moreover, many of the participants enjoyed the routine of the game and wanted to continue playing it following the study.
Here’s a video of the Diet DASH being played: