Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Kind of Cravings Buster!

Playing Tetris for as little as three minutes at a time can weaken cravings for drugs, food and activities such as sex and sleeping by approximately one fifth, according to new research.

In the first test of its kind to study people in natural settings outside of a laboratory, participants were monitored for levels of craving and prompted to play the block-shifting puzzle game at random intervals during the day.

Psychologists from Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology, Australia, found that playing Tetris interfered with desires not only for food, but also for drugs, including cigarettes, alcohol and coffee, and other activities. The benefits of playing Tetris were maintained over the seven-day study period.

In a report published in the international journal Addictive Behaviors, the authors say playing the game could help people to manage their cravings, and they have recommended further research, including testing people dependent on drugs.

Professor Jackie Andrade, from the School of Psychology and the Cognition Institute at Plymouth University, said: "Playing Tetris decreased craving strength for drugs, food, and activities from 70% to 56%. This is the first demonstration that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating.

"We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity. Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery; it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time."

During the experiment, 31 undergraduates, aged 18-27, were prompted seven times a day via text message to report on any cravings they were feeling. They were also encouraged to report cravings proactively, independently of the prompts. Fifteen members of the group were required to play Tetris on an iPod for three minutes, before reporting their craving levels again.

Craving was recorded in 30% of occasions, most commonly for food and non-alcoholic drinks, which were reported on nearly two-thirds of those occasions. Twenty-one percent of cravings were for substances categorised as drugs, including coffee, cigarettes, wine and beer, and 16% were for miscellaneous activities such as sleeping, playing videogames, socialising with friends, and sexual intercourse. Food cravings tended to be slightly weaker than those in the other categories.

"The impact of Tetris on craving was consistent across the week and on all craving types," said Professor Jon May, also of Plymouth University. "People played the game 40 times on average but the effect did not seem to wear off. This finding is potentially important because an intervention that worked solely because it was novel and unusual would have diminishing benefits over time as participants became familiar with it."

"As a support tool, Tetris could help people manage their cravings in their daily lives and over extended time periods," added Professor Andrade.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Plymouth.

Journal Reference:

Jessica Skorka-Brown, Jackie Andrade, Ben Whalley, Jon May. Playing Tetris decreases drug and other cravings in real world settings. Addictive Behaviors, 2015; 51: 165 DOI: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.07.020

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

FODMAP disappoints

There is very little evidence to recommend avoiding certain types of dietary carbohydrate, known as the FODMAP diet, to ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS for short, concludes a review of the available data in Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (dtb).

IBS is characterized by abdominal pain/discomfort and altered bowel frequency in the absence of any obvious gut abnormalities. Symptoms can include abdominal bloating, which eating can worsen.

Up to one in five of the population is thought to be affected, with women twice as likely to develop IBS symptoms as men.

Treatment options include dietary and lifestyle advice, psychotherapy, and drugs to curb painful spasms and associated diarrhea and/or constipation.

Dietary advice usually includes the recommendation to reduce intake of insoluble fibre, limit fresh fruit to three portions a day, take regular meals, avoid rushing food or eating on the go, and to steer clear of the artificial sweetener sorbitol.

The low FODMAP diet, which was developed in Australia, is based on the observation that certain types of short chain carbs are poorly absorbed by the small intestine and that IBS symptoms worsen when these are eaten.

These short chain carbs are present in wheat, onions, and legumes; milk; honey, apples, and high fructose corn syrup; and the artificial sweeteners used in confectionery (sorbitol and mannitol). They are rapidly fermented in the gut, increasing water volume and gases.

After assessing the available published evidence and the three UK guidelines on the management of IBS, dtb says that all the trials provide some evidence that patients feel the diet reduces some of the symptoms.

And one study indicates that the diet changes the profile of the bacteria in the gut, although what the clinical implications of this are, or, indeed, what the long term effects might be, are unclear, says dtb.

But data to back the use of a low FODMAP diet as an effective treatment to control symptoms "is based on a few relatively small, short term unblinded or single blinded controlled trials of varying duration," it cautions.

And dietary manipulation is not without its drawbacks as some people fail to maintain a balanced diet when trying dietary exclusions, says dtb.

While some guidelines suggest that a low FODMAP diet might be appropriate for motivated patients for whom other treatments have failed to relieve symptoms, this should only be done under the supervision of a dietitian with specialist expertise in this type of dietary intervention, it recommends.

And it concludes: "However, we believe that patients should be advised that there is very limited evidence for its use, the ideal duration of treatment has not been assessed in a clinical trial, and its place in the management of IBS has not been fully established."

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by BMJ. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

Does a low FODMAP diet help IBS? Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, August 2015 DOI: 10.1136/dtb.2015.8.0346

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