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Can Avatars Help Us Lose Weight?

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

Can Avatars Help Us Lose Weight?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Can Avatars Help Us Lose Weight?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 20, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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