This new computer game may help children choose healthy food

Headlines | May 18, 2017, 8:02 a.m.

London, May 18: Scientists have devised a seven- minute brain-training computer game that may help children choose healthy snacks over chocolates and sweets. 

Children who played the simple game developed by researchers from University of Exeter in the UK made healthier choices when asked to pick foods afterwards. 

The game involves reacting to images of healthy food by pressing a button, and doing nothing if unhealthy foods are shown.

"The sight of foods like chocolate can activate reward centres in the brain at the same time as reducing activity in self-control areas," said Lucy Porter from University of Exeter.

"Our training encourages people to make a new association - when they see unhealthy food, they stop," Porter said. 

Researchers showed images of healthy and unhealthy foods to more than 200 school children aged 4-11. 

Alongside each image a cartoon face - happy for healthy food, sad for unhealthy food - was shown.

Children had to hit the space-bar when they saw a happy face, and do nothing if they saw a sad face - they were not told that the game had anything to do with healthy or unhealthy food.

Afterwards, the participants played a shopping game where they had to choose a limited number of food items in one minute.

"We did not see a total turnaround in favour of choosing healthy options, but there was an increase from about 30 per cent of foods chosen to over 50 per cent in children who did the brain training," Porter said.


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