Science 3 min read

How to Train Your Brain to Eat Less Sugar Using Video Games

Obesity is one of the largest health problems of our generation. Now, a research group believes they may have found a way of reducing peoples sugar intake through the use of video games.

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Health experts have linked excess sugar with several risks. Aside from the extra calories, research shows that too much sugar can cause diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases.

According to a study of over 30,000 people, participants who consumed between 17 and 21 percent of calories from added sugar have a 38 percent chance of dying from heart disease.

Unfortunately, eliminating excess sugar from the diet is not as easy as it sounds.

Depending on your level of dependence, you could experience an intense craving to eat or drink something sweet and sugary. It’s worse if you have a sugar addiction.

You could experience symptoms which range from headache, nausea, lethargy, to a foggy mental state.

But, what if there’s a convenient and fun way to end your sugar cravings? According to a recently published study in the Journal of Behaviour Medicine, there is.

Researchers at Drexel University developed and evaluated a brain training game designed to not only decrease the consumption of sweet food but improve overall diet too.

In a statement to the press, a psychology professor at Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study, Evan Forman, Ph.D. said:

“Cognitive, or ‘brain, training’ games have been used to help people reduce unhealthy habits, like smoking. We also saw positive results from labs using computer training programs.”

How does the computer training program work, you ask?

Using Video Game to Reduce Sugar Cravings.

The research team worked with Michael Wagner – a professor and head of the Digital Media department in Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design – to design a game based on cognitive training. They called it “Diet DASH.”

Diet DASH automatically adjusts the training to fit the quantity of sweet that a participant consumes. Also, it provides a custom difficulty level, according to how well players resist temptations of sweet.

For the study, the researchers had 109 overweight participants attend a workshop to help them understand the dangers of added sugar and which foods to avoid.

Next, they played the game for a couple of minutes per day for six weeks. Later, the researchers reduced the frequency to once a week for the last two weeks.

In the game, players are required to move through a grocery store. The goal was simple; the put as may healthy food in the cart as they could while avoiding the unhealthy ones (their sugar preference).

The game then awards points for every healthy food in the cart.

The researchers noted that about half of the participants lost 3.1 percent of their body weight after playing the game for eight weeks. Not only did the players claim to enjoy the game, but they also wish to continue the training if available.

Forman noted that: 

“The study’s findings offer qualified support for the use of a computerized cognitive training to facilitate weight loss.”

According to the researcher, this is the first study to examine how such “highly personalized and/or gamified inhibitory control training” can lead to weight loss.

Read More: Scientists Create Neural Implant That Turns Brain Signals to Speech

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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