New App Reckons It Can Help Stop You Craving Unhealthy Foods

Photo: Rockie Nolan
Say hello to the future. Dr. Natalia Lawrence and her team at the University of Exeter have gone and done something pretty spectacular and developed a new app which she reckons could train your brain to stop craving certain unhealthy foods. If you're trying to eat more healthily, this sounds excellent, right? The app, called FoodT and currently available only on Android and online (they're crowdfunding for an iPhone version, too) has had great success so far. The first study was across 83 adults and researchers found that when subjects played the game housed in the app four times a week, they consumed on average 220 fewer calories a day. The game is simple. The player is presented with a rectangle with an image inside; the image will be either towards the left of the rectangle, or to the right. If it's left, you press the 'C' key, if it's right, you press the 'M' key. Sometimes, the rectangle has a thick border and in those cases the player must press nothing. The pictures are of (very questionable) clothes and different types of food – some healthy, some not. Over the six rounds, players are encouraged to take no action (i.e. press nothing) when presented with images of chocolate and cookies and take action (press either 'C' or 'M') when it comes to pictures of things like carrots and Ryvita crackers. Not going to lie, guys – the game on desktop isn't the most thrilling thing you've ever played... If you do have an Android phone, the app lets you choose three foods you're trying to cut down on, to cater the experience specifically to you. The creators say that with practice the game "trains the brain to automatically put the brakes on when we encounter our problem foods. This won't stop you from eating these foods completely but it will give you some control back." They're also finding that immediately after training, people "like" foods like cookies and chocolate less. Remember: Eating healthily isn't really about eating less overall, it's about stocking up on unprocessed foods that are low in sugar and salt, and giving super-sweet foods that are high in saturated fats the swerve. As Dr. Lawrence says, "We are optimistic that the way this app is devised will actually encourage people to opt for healthy food such as fruit and vegetables rather than junk food." They ask that you do not take part if you have a BMI of under 18.5.

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