MAR 11, 2020 11:58 PM PDT

Can Technology Decrease Your Food Intake?

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Technology is believed to reduce food intake according to a new study recently published in the Journal of Nutrition.

 “When 119 young adults consumed a meal while playing a simple computer game for 15 minutes, they ate significantly less than when they ate the same meal without distractions”, said lead author Carli A. Liguori who conducted the research while studying food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Food consumption of participants was evaluated on two parameters 1) eating while playing a game called ‘Rapid Visual Information Processing (RVIP)’ or 2) eating without any distractions. The game tests participant’s visual sustained attention and working memory—which has been previously used to evaluate Alzheimer's disease and attention-deficit disorder.

"It's fairly simple but distracting enough that you have to really be watching it to make sure that you don't miss a number and are mentally keeping track," Liguori said. "That was a big question for us going into this -- how do you ensure that the participant is distracted? And the RVIP was a good solution for that."

Learn more about visual information processing:

The game randomly flashes series of digits on the computer screen at the rate of one per second. Participants in the study were instructed to hit the space bar on the keyboard whenever they saw three consecutive odd numbers appear.

"It really seemed to matter whether they were in that distracted eating group first," said Liguori, who is a visiting faculty member in health and physical activity at the University of Pittsburgh. "Something about being distracted on their initial visit really seemed to change the amount they consumed during the nondistracted meal. There may be a potent carryover effect between the mechanism of distraction and the novelty of the food served."

The study was based on a hypothesis that when people “ate while using the computer game they would not only consume more food but would have poorer memory of what they ate and enjoy it less” but participants were actually found to eat less when distracted by a computer game. Liguori adds "they behaved as if they were encountering the food for the first time, as evidenced by a lower rate of consumption similar to that of those who began".

Source: Science Daily

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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