Researchers at the University of Tokyo have come up with a new way to shed excess weight – by tricking the brain via virtual reality goggles. The so-called ‘diet goggles’ work by increasing the perceived visual size of the meal you are about to consume, thereby fooling the brain into making you feel more full than the actual meal would warrant.
The premise is very simple – in order to lose weight you need to control the amount of food you consume. The problem with this is that most of us have trouble dealing with the hunger that results from a dissatisfying portion. Eliminating this hunger is the key to not reaching for seconds. Of course there have been other ways to control this urge before this high-tech solution came along, such as diet pills and stomach staples, but all of these are potentially harmful or invasive. The diet goggles offer a solution that relies entirely on visual input and in no way influences your body. (There is another way of not eating too much, once known as self-discipline, but that was lost sometime in the 21st century).
The gadget works by filming a live feed of the food you are about to consume to image altering software that increases the size of the portion and relays it to the viewing helmet for you to see.
The effectiveness of the diet goggles was tested via an experiment in which people were asked to consume food until they were full. The results showed that when the size of the meal was increased by a factor of 1.5 by the goggles, people ate on average only 90% of those without the goggles. Similarly, when the size of the meal was shrunk to 66% of its actual size, people with the goggles ate 15% more than the control group.
This experiment contradicts the popular view that hunger is dominated by the contents of the stomach and the corresponding signals sent to the brain. Rather it seems that there is a significant psychological factor affected by what we see.
Some sceptics believe that the effects of the experiment are not sustainable and that the stomach would eventually become wise to the trick and adapt to the altered visual input. Furthermore, even if the goggles allow you to eat less at one point in the day, the result may even be detrimental as you may end up feeling hungrier at a later stage, at which point your brain won’t be fooled as easily.
You can read more about the diet goggles here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/18354895