A new pilot study provides evidence that virtual reality simulations can help improve human health literacy, thereby enhancing actual health.

“Virtual reality is a powerful computer simulation of real situations in which the user interacts as avatar and it can be used as support for a weight loss program,” said Dr. Antonio Giordano and Dr. Giuseppe Russo of Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine.

For the study, recently published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, researchers created virtual everyday life scenarios that often challenge an individual to live “healthy.”

They then provided participants information on how to overcome the real-world hurdles.

Use of virtual reality and other forms of emerging technology, be it social media or health provider portals, provides a new option for a world where at least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.

Experts say that over 60 percent of all Americans are overweight or obese. Even in countries such as Italy, where about 1 in 10 adults are obese, adult obesity rates are anticipated to increase by five percent in the next 10 years.

“In this pilot study, we have created different virtual scenes where an avatar has to live everyday tasks such as walking on a treadmill or healthy grocery shopping,” said Dr. Giordano and Dr. Russo.

The international team created a DVD showing an overweight avatar living different virtual daily situations.

The team enrolled eight overweight American women and demonstrated that this DVD helped these participants to gather new information on how to lose weight.

“This study represents how virtual reality can contribute to behavioral improvement of human health,” concluded Dr. Giordano and Dr. Russo.

Source: Sbarro Health Research Organization (SHRO) via Newswise