Some More Susceptible To Images Of Delicious Food

by | Jan 7, 2009

A study published today in the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that certain individuals are more susceptible to images of appetizing food, making them hungrier and raising their risk of overeating.

The study

Scientists at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural network connections of people either more or less sensitive to images of delicious looking desserts. The most sensitive individuals had stronger brain connections between regions known to be involved in impulse and reward circuitry.

Also, the degree of a person’s sensitivity predicted how much he or she wants to eat after seeing appetizing food, and can affect overeating even in the absence of hunger.

This study is the first to examine the neural networks involved in food suggestibility in humans, but it supports similar findings reported in rodents.

The implication is that some people may be much more strongly influenced by food advertising than others, a phenomenon that can trigger overeating and ultimately weight gain.

What does this mean for you?

My guess is that you know whether or not you are someone who is deeply affected by images of food. This might suggest it is in your best interest to actively avoid watching commercials and flipping through glossy food magazines (and blogs) with images of decadent foods.

If you really enjoy food publications (I hope you do!) you could try switching to something like Cook’s Illustrated, where the images are technical rather than appetizing. The best alternative, however, may be to only tune in to those media sources that make healthy food look delicious, like this blog!

I definitely won’t be offering up pictures of chocolate cake and cookies in the near future.

What do you think, are you deeply affected by images of food and does it make it difficult for you to control what you eat?

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6 Responses to “Some More Susceptible To Images Of Delicious Food”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Funny that you mention this study now, I just heard on NPR today that the number 1 New Years Resolution is weight loss, and that they are going to do a special spotlight on the science of overeating

  2. Healthyliving says:

    Yeah, but couldn’t peoples definition of delicious vary widely? I know a lot of crazy people who don’t like chocolate

  3. Darya Pino says:

    @anon1:Cool. I hope NPR emphasizes the importance of choosing healthy, nourishing foods and avoiding deprivation diets. For me, that has been what made weight loss/maintenance go from impossible to pretty easy :)—–@HealthylivingAbsolutely it is different for everyone! So if you like a lot of junk food it is harder for you because the ads are more prevalent. My personal weakness is high-end restaurants, so my problem is more about reading SF Magazine and walking on Valencia!

  4. Karin says:

    I don’t know about you guys, but I’m just plain susceptible to delicious food!

  5. Mike says:

    This reminds me of the book you have on your Amazon reading recommendation ‘Mindless Eating’- the science of eating and appetite is really one of the most intriguing. I wonder if some day we’ll be able to have gene therapy for appetite control!

  6. Darya Pino says:

    @MikeYou’re right, it is in the same psychology/food consumption genre as Mindless Eating. For those of you who haven’t read it, I highly recommend it! You will be shocked at how much extra you will eat when you are exposed to different environments. Eaters beware!

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