False memories helps to keep fit, researchers say

Powers of suggestion like those employed by TV mind manipulator Derren Brown can turn dieters off certain foods, researchers have found.

Psychologists in the United States successfully planted false memories into the minds of volunteers to convince them that strawberry ice cream made them ill as a child.

Subsequently, the volunteers no longer enjoyed strawberry ice cream and the food became one they avoided.

Dr Elizabeth Loftus, from the University of California at Irvine, who led the study, said: "We believe this new finding may have significant implications for dieting.

"While we know food preferences developed in childhood continue into adulthood, this work suggests that the mere belief one had a negative experience could be sufficient to influence food choices as an adult."

The experiment mirrored the techniques used by psychological illusionist Derren Brown, who is able to control people's behavior and "read" their minds through suggestion.

According to Scotsman, researchers asked 335 students to fill in questionnaires about their food preferences and experiences, reports Daily Mail.

They were told their answers had been put in a computer, which informed one group they had been made sick by eating strawberry ice-cream as a child.

Dr Loftus said: "People do develop aversions to foods. For example, something novel like béarnaise sauce may make someone sick once, and they can develop a real aversion to that food.

"And with alcohol, there's a medication that actually makes alcoholics sick if they drink, and the idea is to develop an aversion so that the person avoids drinking.

The researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said they were unable to turn students off chocolate chip cookies in the same way.

They said this might be because it is more difficult to form false beliefs about frequently eaten foods.

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