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Can A Computer Game Fight Food Cravings?

February 22, 2014
ABC News Radio

 If you’re craving chocolate, a cigarette, or a doughnut and want to lessen or eliminate the desire, play a computer game.

According to a new study published in the journal Appetite, playing a computer game can lessen the urge for sweets, a smoke, and even sex.

A team of researchers led by Jessica Skorka-Brown at Plymouth University's Cognition Institute in the U.K. measured the effects of the computer game Tetris on individuals who reported “natural” cravings of varying degrees -- as opposed to cravings deliberately triggered by the researchers with chocolates, for example.

One group of cravers played Tetris while a second waited as the computer game attempted to load, but never finished loading.

After a designated amount of screen time, the individuals were again asked to rate their cravings. The researchers found that the people who played Tetris experienced 24 percent weaker cravings than those who waited unsuccessfully for the game to load.

Psychologist David Kavanagh of Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, says of the study, “[I]f we can help people deal with craving -- blunt it a bit, or give them some time out -- it can not only help them stay in control, but it may make them feel a bit better as well.”