Diet Glasses: The Future of Weight Loss?


(Youtube ScreenGrab)"Reality is in your mind."

That could one day be your new diet mantra. It's also how Michitaka Hirose explains his radical new experiment.

The University of Tokyo professor and his team of technology researchers may have inadvertently invented a revolutionary weight loss product. No suspicious pills or brutal workout regiments required, just an easily fooled mind.

Hirose's "diet glasses" are virtual reality head pieces with built-in cameras that manipulate the way food appears. Wearing the glasses, a standard-size Oreo can be made to look twice as large, while the rest of your field of vision maintains its proportions.

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When put to the test by volunteers, the optical illusion of the larger cookie tricked volunteers' brains into eating ten percent less than they normally would.

In a reverse experiment, the goggles shrunk the cookie's appearance, promoting subjects to eat 15 percent more.

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The eyes, it seems, are windows into the stomach. Our ability to feel satisfied may depend more on what we see before us, rather than what we really consume.

For years now, that concept may have been helping us gain weight rather than lose it. Food psychologists Pierre Chandon and Brian Wasnick published a study in 2007 suggesting people eat more when they think food is healthier, even if it's not. Their subjects were more likely to order sides and sodas from fast food places branded nutritious than those famously transparent burger joints. The healthy image of a restaurant was a green-light to binge, calorie count be damned. That may be one reason why famously fatty franchises are now making veggies and fruits the stars of their menu. Tricky.

"Diet glasses" are the essentially the same concept, but applied to weight loss. Hirose's invention implies you can trick your own brain into thinking you're eating more cookies than you actually are. But what about not eating cookies at all?

The glasses can help with that, too. A little CGI enhancement through the camera's goggles turned a plain cookie into a much more tempting treat. Scents emanating from the headgear also enhanced the perceived sweetness of a largely bland snack. (The device allows users to pick their own olfactory enhancing scents, like chocolate-strawberry, to go along with the image.)

In Hirose's tests, 80 percent of volunteers were tricked into thinking they were eating something they weren't, thanks to the one-two punch of smell and sight manipulation. Imagine how that could change the diet of picky eaters and late-night bingers. Broccoli that smells like spaghetti and meatballs! Carrots that satisfy an ice cream craving!

So let's get to the point, where can you buy these diet glasses? Nowhere yet, though Hirose's team is looking into its potential dietary uses, according to a report from the AFP.

Practically speaking, the high-tech virtual reality goggles aren't ready to be worn like Ray Bans yet. They work for a single cookie but a plate of food may be more complicated to manipulate. There's also the matter of style. As of now, they look like the kind of eyewear only available to trained militia or Sky Mall subscribers. In the meantime, try eating with a magnifying glass.

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