When broadcaster and health campaigner Anne Diamond reviewed some videogames earlier this year, her damnation was so scathing that it overshadowed The Byron Review, a major government-commissioned report on the subject. Fast forward eight months and the leading health campaigner is now working with researchers to test a theory that certain casual games may actually help weight loss and she's recruiting volunteers for a clinical trial to put the theory to the test.
"Of course, we are not talking about the kinds of violent games I reviewed earlier in the year, and which caused such a stir in the gaming world" Diamond comments. "We're looking at casual videogames. Research suggests that, unlike the violent and adrenalin-fuelled titles I reviewed, certain "casual" games can reduce stress levels, enhance mood, and even reduce depression. What's more, they could actually help with weight loss - a subject very close to my heart. The theory is that playing casual games like PopCap.co.uk's Bejeweled Twist for a few minutes, say at lunchtime, or at a stressful time of day, can provide a simple distraction from food cravings, helping dieters remain focussed, de-stress them and lift their mood - very important features in weight loss... So naturally, I wanted to know more."
Respected dietician and nutritionist, Nigel Denby, who will conduct the research throughout January 2009 added: "Beating cravings and 'grazing' are two of the most challenging aspects of dieting for many people and January 1st is traditionally when many people embark on a diet. The majority have fallen off the wagon within three weeks. We've therefore decided to make this trial a real torture test and see if Bejeweled Twist can help New Year dieters achieve their goals."
Cathy Orr of PopCap.co.uk, the company behind Bejeweled Twist and whose games were used in the clinical trials in the US said, "We are delighted Anne is involved in the new trial. We are just beginning to understand some of the positive health benefits casual games can have and we hope that we can find some good news for the millions of dieters in the UK."
Dieters who wish to participate in the trial should visit http://www.popcap.co.uk to try out Bejeweled Twist and sign up for the study. The research will take place throughout January 2009.
Anne Diamond added: "Losing and managing weight is a struggle - some experts say that 12.8 million Brits are on a diet at any one time and all my research shows that it is a life sentence, and people need to develop strategies to stop snacking or comfort eating. Anything that can help make dieting even a little bit easier and less stressful is a positive development and playing casual games is something that anyone can do, any time, anywhere."