Friday, December 10, 2021

Gamified Eating

Unhealthy diet is one the most important lifestyle risk factors for metabolic and physiologic changes predisposing to disease. IBS, for example, can be caused by irregular eating, physical inactivity, and quality of sleep, even though  IBS subjects usually eat more healthy foods (such as vegetables and legumes) than others. Gamification approaches to nutrition education offer advantages for preventing disease over traditional persuasion methods. Gamiļ¬cation might provide not only positive emotional feelings, but it also increases sense of immersion, facilitating learning. 

Yet, about half of existing apps don't improve health and wellbeing because they are not developed in a skilled way. 

What makes a diet best? What is the best diet for you? Every year US News calls health experts to rank popular diets and every year there are changes in ranking. 10 years ago,  the DASH diet beat out  AtkinsJenny Craig, Slim-Fast and 15 others to win the crown. It was praised as the best for combating high blood pressure. This year it's number 2, after Mediterranean diet scoring high on weight loss, heart and brain health,  diabetes and cancer prevention. For dropping those extra pounds, 10 years ago Weight Watchers ranked No. 1, followed closely by Jenny Craig and the Raw Food Diet. This year i's the Flexitarean Diet. The database has 39 diets, a small fraction of existing "eating plans" built around various personalities and lifestyles. The EAT-Lancet diet is one of those not included - it tries to balance nutrition with environmental concerns. The FODMAP diet - best for IBS - is not ranked either. 
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US News & World Report puts hard numbers on the common-sense belief that no diet is ideal for everybody. But finding out which diet is best for you could be a cumbersome task. Many apps exist but they are not sufficiently engaging or sufficiently good for your health. 
Health gamification research is progressing at a fast pace. Researchers are finding which elements the users of nutrition apps prefer. Food gamers like clear measurable goals, performance graphs, and progress bars, but seem to lack motivating elements found in non-nutrition apps - since digital "rewards",  "levels" and "leaderboards" are not sufficiently appealing.  And neither is counting calories, gameplay narratives and individual competition.  

Gamified nutrition apps show promise. Who'll design the perfect food game?
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