Can We Train Our Brain To Resist Food Temptation?

At present, more than one in three American adults above 20 years old is obese. The number increase from approximately one in four two decades ago. Sadly, almost 70% of Americans are overweight. Millions of other citizens are carrying more weight than they want this time of the year.

Numerous Americans experience not only health issues, but shame and guilt over these extra pounds. And that is why weight loss as an industry of diet companies, diet book authors, obesity doctors and weight loss pill manufacturers – is a real big business. Businesses that are focused on weight loss products and services could easily rake in $6.3 billion in revenue last year based on an IBISWorld report.

Good examples would be Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem. Sales of their supplements, which promise weight loss, add billion more. And nowadays, doctors are performing thousands of bariatric surgeries annually to help patients get rid of their excessive body weight.

The desire of many to slim down is a great source of cash for other people. To earn those big sums of money, some companies are eager to stretch the reality of what their products and services could do.

To make sure that most of the weight-loss ads are relatively true, and there are a number of diet supplements that work. Still, the quantity of misinformation in the weight loss industry is very high. Consumers must learn how to read labels to avoid fraudulent products. Avoid those that offer like losing 10 pounds in just 10 days.

Interestingly, a group of psychologists has specially designed a computer game aimed at improving the inhibitory control of a user and a mobile application that fights unhealthy urges before they hit. The inhibitory control is the part of the brain that bars you from giving in to unhealthy cravings even when the smell of hamburger is basically begging you to fall in line in the nearest burger stand. These technologies are believed to have the ability to train the brain to defy temptation.

Researchers from Drexel University worked hard to answer a question if a computer game can actually train a person’s brain to resist sweets and other cravings. The researchers conducted some testing whether a new computer game and Smartphone can change people’s behavior towards eating.

Just recently, the Drexel University researchers have launched a few studies. They have developed technologies that can help in controlling unwholesome eating habits and eventually lose weight.

Their computer game is built to help a person control himself and not give in any delicious temptations.
On the other hand, the mobile app can intelligently detect patterns in the eating habits of an individual. Whenever a user misses his dietary plan, the mobile app provides customized strategies to guide and put them back on the right track.

Based on the data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 69% of adults residing in Philadelphia are obese or overweight. While there are different factors contributing to the obesity epidemic in the city, oftentimes a person’s mind is the biggest obstruction when it comes to weight loss. This is according to Dr. Evan Forman, who is a psychology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. He continued, saying that sweet foods set off the same feel-good brain chemicals as addictive drugs.

Millions of people who are trying to lose weight usually do it by minimizing their calorie consumption. It is not uncommon that in some days, they might slip from their diet plans. This can happen to anyone. Dr. Forman said that the secret of helping people really lose weight is preventing these slips. That’s why they concentrate on how the best way to do and achieve that.

All throughout the day, you have to decide about what foods you eat. And it is not a secret that there is a dominant part of your mind that drives a person toward things that feel and taste good.

For example, an officemate brings a dozen of doughnuts into the workplace. For someone regularly eats sweets, the initial reaction is, “I love to have one.” The next response is to try to pump the brakes on the urge. Unfortunately, that kind of reaction is usually slower and weaker than impulse.

However, a couple of studies have shown that if someone performs certain tasks involving inhibitory control constantly, it actually gets stronger.

Dr. Forman and his team of researchers tested this premise in the latest study, which was published in a journal Called Appetite. Eaters who habitually consume snack food were assigned to 1 of 4 short, training exercises customized to increase their cautious decision-making and reinforce their inhibitory control. It was concluded that both trainings were effective in curbing snack eating.

Right now, the researchers are trying to discover whether inhibitory control training can help the participants minimize their sugary food consumption, and eventually lose weight.

DietDash is the name of their new training game. First, it requires participants to reveal the kinds of sugary food they eat very often. They will then be assigned to 1 of 4 versions of a game that is designed to their diet. For instance, if a participant lists soda and chocolate cake as their favourite treat, those will appear in the game.

The players have to press some keys to respond to different kinds of images, which include images of yummy sugary foods and images of healthy foods. As the inhibitory control of a player improve the speed of the game increases with an extra challenge. Every user is required to play for 8 minutes daily, 7 days a week for 6 weeks.

Although other studies have shown this kind of training at least temporarily influences the eating habits of a user. The researchers wish to know the result over a period of 2 months. The National Institutes of Health funded this project.

This is the first attempt to train individuals for a couple of weeks in a row. The researchers believe that this can translate to “real-world behaviours,” because any task improves with regular practice.

Dr. Forman is confident that when the study is done, the computer game could be developed into a mobile application.

The second technology that the researchers design is called DietAlert. Obesity Society and Weight Watchers funded the project.

This Smartphone app gathers data about the eating habits of a user and incorporates a mathematical algorithm to identify when he or she is expected to slip from his or her diet plan.

For example, the app may say that an individual is more likely to consume sugary foods after lunch when she misses out her breakfast. As someone’s eating pattern becomes familiar with the app, it can send a warning alert and give tips to help the user focus more on his health plan.

One of the most difficult parts of a diet plan is the failure to distinguish and mark factors that keep causing lapses constantly.

The DietAlert app is like no other application available technology today. It does not only track a user’s eating habits, but it also incorporates the data to provide a personalized recommendation.

DietAlert targets every person exactly when he needs the right kind of help.

The researchers in the Laboratory for Innovations in Health-Related Behavior Change of Drexel University are now searching for participants of both studies.

The DietDash study must be between 25 and 55 years old, overweight, and consume sweets frequently. All the participants who will complete the study will receive compensation.

On the other hand, those who are interested in participating in the DietAlert study must be between 18 and 65 years old. You must be looking for ways to lose weight. Compensation and a free Weight Watchers mobile app monthly subscription will be given to those who will be able to complete the study.

Leave a Reply