Researchers from the University of Exeter designed a brain-training mobile game that can help you make better food choices. How does it work and where can you get it? Let’s take a closer look.

The game is called The Food Trainer (FoodT app) and it has been designed to train players to stop the impulse to reach for unhealthy foods. Researchers recruited 1,234 people for their study to see if their game could successfully influence dietary habits.

They lost 0,5 kg of weight

They found that playing the game about once per day for a month led to a reduction in junk food consumption and a small increase in healthy food. This resulted in a weight loss of 0,5 kg on average across all participants.

“As an example, someone who ate each junk food 2-4 times a week reduced this to once a week after using the app regularly for a month. We would expect to see this because the app targets mechanisms that lead people to become overweight, such as the strong urges to approach and consume tempting junk foods,” said Professor Natalia Lawrence, of the University of Exeter.

How does FoodT work?

The game is quite simple. You choose unhealthy junk food you’re having trouble resisting and the game shows you images of those foods mixed with other healthy foods and other items. And you’re rated on how quickly you’re able to click on healthy foods while also resisting clicking on junk foods. This repeatedly trains your brain to stop the impulse to choose junk food.

How to play the game?

The authors of the study add a few recommendations for how to make the best use of the game. They suggest you personalize the game, play in different contexts, and do it regularly.

“If you’re trying to teach the brain something new, it’s a good idea to space out the learning over multiple sessions. It may be helpful to do the training in different contexts, not just at home but at work and elsewhere, so the associations you learn don’t just relate to one location. From our results, it seems important that you do the training regularly and don’t just stop. So, keep it interesting and relevant for yourself so you won’t get bored with it,” said lead author Dr Matthias B. Aulbach.

Just 4 minutes a day to curb your impulses

The new game seems to produce results in the real world and it doesn’t even take much time to play it. Would you give it a try?

“Overall, the findings are really encouraging. The app is free and it only takes about 4 minutes per day. So, it’s something people realistically can do,” said Prof. Lawrence.

And if quotes from researchers aren’t enough to convince you, maybe a Google Play store review will. This is what one person wrote: “Really useful. Seems to work on different levels whether it’s the green/red circle association of stop/go, which psychologically makes you more aware, I’m not sure — but my cravings have reduced dramatically and I no longer eat in the evening mindlessly.”