Diabetes and Weight Loss: Maybe A Game Can Help
One of the primary ways to manage or reverse metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes is losing excess weight.
What makes weight loss difficult are the food cravings that relentlessly tug on our willpower and taste buds—until salty potato chips or chocolate chunk ice cream is all we can think about.
Some researchers wondered if playing a particular video game might interfere with cravings' siren call, making weight loss a bit easier. They devised a study using the game Tetris to test this hypothesis. The results of their small, week long initial study was promising enough to warrant further research.
The Tetris Effect
The scientists found that playing Tetris - a tile-matching puzzle game - decreased the craving strength for food, drugs, and activities by about one fifth. For those struggling with an addiction to sugar or fatty snack foods this craving reduction is too small to be curative, but large enough to make a helpful difference.
“We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance...” said researcher Jackie Andrade, Plymouth University. “Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery; it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time.”
The Tetris study had participants going about their usual routines in their natural environments. All were prompted via text message to report any cravings, and were encouraged to report cravings independent of the prompts as well. After making a report, half the participants were required to play Tetris for three minutes, on an iPod, before making another report.
Let The Game Begin
The effect that playing Tetris had on various types of craving was consistent over the week long study. Craving disruption did not fade as the novelty of playing the game wore off for the participants. This implies Tetris may help individuals manage their cravings over extended time periods.
Though it’s possible that any activity involving vivid visualization will weaken the imagery that fuels food cravings, for now the focus is on Tetris. One way to win the battle of the bulge might be to let the game begin.