Brown University researchers find digital mindfulness training and craving tools in Eat Right Now regulate eating behavior and tackle food addiction
ATLANTA – July 16, 2021 – Do you ever fall victim to the occasional emotion-fueled junk food binge and then wonder why you let yourself do it? For some individuals, this occasional bad habit can become all-consuming with consequences that can trigger chronic conditions. New research published in Journal of Behavioral Addictions demonstrates the effectiveness of Eat Right Now, an app-based program from Sharecare (Nasdaq: SHCR) that taps into two basic cognitive tools – curiosity and awareness – to help people make positive changes in their eating habits and relationship with food.
Developed by renowned neuroscientist and addiction psychiatrist Dr. Jud Brewer, Sharecare’s executive medical director of behavioral health, Eat Right Now previously has been shown to reduce craving-related eating by 40%. In this newly published research, participants reported reductions in stress eating and food cravings after eight weeks of using the app’s mindfulness training interventions, providing evidence that reward value in conjunction with motivational factors can regulate eating behaviors.
“Food cravings are programmed by neurotransmitters such as dopamine which drive habit loops that feel rewarding – a basic function of our brains – but fortunately, mindfulness can reverse this process, helping us work with cravings and find bigger, better rewards such as improving health and feeling nourished by our food,” said Sharecare’s Dr. Brewer, who is the senior author of the study. “By providing mobile tools and trainings shown to regulate eating behavior effectively, Eat Right Now holds tremendous promise for not only creating healthier habits that last, but also lowering disease risks associated with being overweight or obese.”
The newly published research details two studies led by Dr. Brewer and his research colleagues at Brown University, where he also serves as director of research and innovation at Brown’s Mindfulness Center. Together, they examined the effectiveness of Eat Right Now on emotional and habitual eating outcomes along with the ability of its novel craving tool to change food reward among participants outside of a clinical setting. To help overcome cravings, Eat Right Now takes the user through a mindful eating exercise that simulates the experience of eating the craved food. The app then prompts the user to assess and reflect on their craving intensity, eating intake frequency and magnitude, and perceived reward.
Study participants used Eat Right Now for eight weeks, completing its core training modules and utilizing the mindful eating craving tool when they experienced food cravings. Participants changed their brain’s enjoyment of overeating by engaging with app as few as 10 to 15 times. The reward values reported by participants also were shown to predict their food intake – as reward value dropped, they switched from overeating to eating less.
“Unhealthy eating habits are a major risk factor for obesity and disease and are often difficult to change because they are formed by reinforcement learning processes that can operate outside conscious awareness,” said Veronique Taylor, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at Brown University with Dr. Brewer. “By recalibrating these habits’ reward value, mindfulness can drive us to choose behaviors that are both rewarding and beneficial.”
On average, study participants were classified as overweight based on their body mass index (BMI). According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are overweight or obese – measuring a BMI of 25 or greater – may be at increased risk for serious health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, many types of cancer, and severe COVID-19; additionally, current estimates show more than 73% of the U.S. population is overweight or obese. However, by adopting healthy eating habits, many individuals can manage or prevent complications from these conditions.
More information about the science behind Eat Right Now can be found at sharecare.com/eatrightnow. Available for download on the App Store and Google Play, Eat Right Now is one of several digital therapeutics available from Sharecare that leverage mindfulness-based and clinically proven strategies to help people overcome behavioral health issues, including overeating, smoking and vaping, and anxiety. To learn more about these unique offerings from Sharecare, visit sharecare.com/digital-therapeutics.
Sharecare is the leading digital health company that helps people – no matter where they are in their health journey – unify and manage all their health in one place. Our comprehensive and data-driven virtual health platform is designed to help people, providers, employers, health plans, government organizations, and communities optimize individual and population-wide well-being by driving positive behavior change. Driven by our philosophy that we are all together better, at Sharecare, we are committed to supporting each individual through the lens of their personal health and making high-quality care more accessible and affordable for everyone. To learn more, visit www.sharecare.com.