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PopCap or stopgap: can gaming help you lose weight?

Hundreds of Nintendo Wii owners may claim the Wii Fit is the ideal companion when it comes to losing weight, but can gaming really help you win the fight against the flab?

PopCap, the maker of PC game Bejeweled Twist, says it will. The gaming company conducted a trial into gaming and weight loss in January this year, and is so encouraged by the findings that it intends to continue its research.

As part of the trial, participants were asked to play Bejeweled Twist anytime they felt the need to snack between meals. PopCap said the participants had "100% success in beating cravings and lifting mood".

"We saw that on all occasions Bejeweled Twist was used, it prevented eating due to a craving, with participants reporting forgetting about their cravings whilst playing the game," said dietician Nigel Denby, who conducted the research.

"In addition to forgetting about cravings, these respondents also reported that their mood improved or changed following gameplay. Mood is a major cravings trigger for many dieters, with stress at work, anger, or sadness commonly reported as flashpoints. Distraction is a well established method to help people overcome stress related food cravings."

One of the participants, Debbie Hodgson had never played computer games before participating in the trial. She said: "My cravings have noticeably reduced since I started this trial and I lost 7 lbs over 4 weeks".

However Denby did admit "the trial results were scientifically inconclusive due to a low number of participants completing the month-long programme".

In my opinion, all PopCap have managed to prove is that snacking is bad for you and that rather than eat, you should do something to distract yourself. In fact, according to Channel 4's Cook Yourself Thin weight-loss programme, reducing your daily intake by 200 calories (which PopCap claims is the just under the amount in an average 'snack') you will help you lose weight quickly and easily.

So rather than head for your PC, just think twice when you reach that chocolate bar, and work out whether you're really hungry or just need a distraction.

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