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Study Finds Specially Designed Games Promote Fruit, Vegetable Consumption

Study Finds Specially Designed Games Promote Fruit, Vegetable Consumption

December 7, 2010 | By Kyle Orland

December 7, 2010 | By Kyle Orland
More: Console/PC

A new study from the Baylor College of Medicine found that children who played two video games designed to promote positive nutrition ate more fruits and vegetables than those in a control group.

The study, which also included work from the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center and the Texas Children's Hospital, looked at 133 children from 10 to 12 years olds, all in the upper half of the weight distribution for their age group.

Some of these children were assigned to play two games designed to promote healthy eating -- Archimage's Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space and Escape from Diab -- and answer questions about their experience.

On average, the children who played these games ate 2/3rds of an additional serving of fruits and vegetables each day, compared to those in the control group. However, the children did not show any improvement in water consumption, physical activity or body composition, three other behavior change goals of the games.

"We believe that video games are among the most promising approaches to promoting behavior change in children," said paper author and Baylor professor Dr. Tom Baranowski, in a statement. "We're at the early stages of knowing how best to use video games to promote behavior change and more research is necessary to figure out how to better use the video games in this context."

Using games to promote healthy behavior has been a focus for many researchers, who have studied the physical and mental effects of everything from Konami's Dance Dance Revolution games to casual brain training simulations.

But games' ability to affect player behavior is also the subject of some controversy, with industry critics arguing that violent games can lead children to be more aggressive in real life. A recent study by the Australian government found evidence for such a link was inconclusive at best.

The fruits and vegetables study was published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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