56- Virtual foods set to change the way people combat eating disorders

The future of fighting eating disorders could very well be through technology. Recent studies have suggested that the individuals exposed to these foods reacted in similar ways to how they would react if the food was real. By using technology like virtual and augmented reality, which is live direct or indirect view of the real world, with computer generated inputs like graphics, sounds, and videos, people can have all the experiences of eating food, without getting the calories.

Pictured above is just one example of how an augmented reality food would appear on your device. The viewer can room in, move from side to side, up and down, and engage however he or she wants with the food, without actually having the possibility to eat the food. 

Surveys suggest obese participants reaction to virtual foods rival that of real food
Eating disorders like binge eating, where an individual will eat extremely large amounts of food in a short period of time, are becoming a major health concern across the globe, and especially in the United States today. A increasingly popular way of trying to control the temptations of binge eating is cue exposure, where in this case, patients are put in a situation where they would typically go on an eating binge, however, they are not allowed to eat any food at all. This method is intended to teach tolerance and eventually lead to the distinction of the behavior. In a study testing the effects of Augmented Reality for cue exposure in obese patients, individuals were tested on a Visual Analog Scale(VAS) for palatability, in which they were asked exposed to food in three different ways, the food itself, augmented reality food, and a picture of food.
Augmented reality food had a mean score of roughly two points behind real food itself, while just a picture of food had a mean score deficit of more than five points from real food. It could be inferred from the data that augmented reality foods would serve as the best method of combating binge eating because they score significantly closer to the score of real food than just a picture, while also not having the ability to give in to the temptations that could occur with having real food available to someone who may go on a binge.

Virtual reality technology in development that would allow us to eat food- without the calories
A new system called Project Nourished is revolutionizing the way we experience dining in the 21st century. The project creates senses using vision, taste, smell, texture, consistency, and sound. These senses are created by using six tools, which are unique to capture each sense in its own way.

By using all this state of the art, extremely innovative technology, you are able to eat any kind of food you can imagine, when and wherever you want. Of course, you are not actually eating the food, but your body is being tricked into thinking it is. That is, your senses are being stimulated the same ways they would be if you were actually eating the food in real life. Now, you can eat that whole pizza, and not have to worry about your reflection the next morning.

Technology like this has a real opportunity to change the ways which eating disorders are dealt with on a day to day basis. This technology would be a more gentle way to ween the individuals off of behaviors like binge eating, rather than have the trauma and mental stress that could come with a method like cue exposure.

High Calorie Salty foods are most desirable reality foods, whether you are obese or not
In the previously mentioned study for testing Augmented Reality for cue exposure in obese patients, both the obese group, and the non-obese, or control group were given augmented reality versions of three different kinds of food, high calorie salty/savory, high calorie sweet, and low calorie. They were then given a visual analog test for palatability which was determined by a mean score. The control group found high calorie salt food to be most palatable with a mean score of 49.7, followed closely by high calorie sweet foods with a score of 48.4, the lowest scoring food was low calorie, with a score of 41. How much did the obese subjects differ from the control group? Seen below is a chart detailing the palatability score of obese participants.

While the obese participants score rankings was the same as the control group in terms of most palatable to least palatable foods, there was a much larger difference in mean scores. Low calorie foods were not found to be nearly as palatable as high calorie foods, and there was a larger more noticeable difference between the score of salty foods and sweet ones, where salty foods clearly were the most preferred. I was shocked by these results the first time I saw it, I would have assumed sweet foods would be seen as most palatable for obese patients due to the fact that they are more unhealthy than the other two groups. While interviewing multiple people, I found they shared that same thought. Below is a video of my sister, Allison, a freshman at Penn State University, and her thoughts on the matter.

Virtual Reality could very well be the way of the future

With increasing popularity and futuristic technology, the possibilities to explore seem endless for virtual reality. But is this a good thing? We have seen it in movies before, but it could very well be our inevitable fate. Too much technology could be a bad thing, as we should take precaution against a world dominated by technology.

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