Want a cookie or a smoke? Play some Tetris instead
Want a cookie or a smoke? Play some Tetris insteadReuters

Playing the visual game, Tetris can reduce the strength of nicotine and food cravings, according to a new study. 

"Craving is a common problem for people trying to quit junk food, smoking or other drugs," Reuters quoted co-author Jackie Andrade.

"It is unpleasant and makes people feel that they have to wait until the right moment to quit. Naturally occurring cravings might be harder to disrupt because they are triggered by internal states like hunger. We chose Tetris because we wanted a task that would be interesting, demanding and highly visual." said Andrade.

For the study, Andrade and her team asked 119 female college going students what they craved for and how badly. They then let the students play Tetris for three minutes.

The initial report on cravings at the beginning of the test: 58 wanted a drink or eat, 10 wanted caffeine while 12 students wanted nicotine. The remaining 39 students didn't initially crave anything.

Craving became weaker over the time for most of the participants who played Tetris, the authors mentioned in the journal Appetite.

Researchers believe that the game works because concentrating on different shapes of Tetris distracts the brain from portraying food or similar things that a person craves for.

"When we want something really badly, it is hard to think about anything else and the experience is a very sensory one. It engages our imagination. That can be a real torture. But it also gives us a hint about how we can deal with cravings: if we can do something that engages the same brain functions, we can blunt the craving and make it easier to resist the temptation," said David Kavanagh, Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

Researchers didn't measured how long did the reduced cravings lasted.

However, people who are trying to lose weight may try playing Tetris, explained Andrade.

"I think it is important that people are motivated to play the game for it to be an effective tool to fight cravings. And as a positive side effect, you may actually become a very skillful player." said van Dillen, who was not involved in the research.