Background: Patients with eating disorders are characterized by pathological eating habits and a tendency to overestimate their weight and body shape. Virtual reality shows promise for the evaluation and management of patients with eating disorders. This technology, when accepted by this population, allows immersion in virtual environments, assessment, and therapeutic approaches, by exposing users to high-calorie foods or changes in body shape. Objective: To better understand the value of virtual reality, we conducted a review of the literature, including clinical studies proposing the use of virtual reality for the evaluation and management of patients with eating disorders. Methods: We searched PubMed, PsycINFO, ScienceDirect, the Cochrane Library, Scopus, and Web of Science up to April 2017. We created the list of keywords based on two domains: virtual reality and eating disorders. We used the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research while minimizing bias. Results: The initial database searches identified 311 articles, 149 of which we removed as duplicates. We analyzed the resulting set of 26 unique studies that met the inclusion criteria. Of these, 8 studies were randomized controlled trials, 13 were nonrandomized studies, and 5 were clinical trials with only 1 participant. Most articles focused on clinical populations (19/26, 73%), with the remainder reporting case-control studies (7/26, 27%). Most of the studies used visual immersive equipment (16/26, 62%) with a head-mounted display (15/16, 94%). Two main areas of interest emerged from these studies: virtual work on patients’ body image (7/26, 27%) and exposure to virtual food stimuli (10/26, 38%). Conclusions: We conducted a broad analysis of studies on the use of virtual reality in patients with eating disorders. This review of the literature showed that virtual reality is an acceptable and promising therapeutic tool for patients with eating disorders.
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