Sweet tooth is all in your head
NEXT time an overweight patient says they’re unable to resist the lure of a sugary doughnut, don’t blame their lack of self-control – it’s actually their brain leading them to the bakery.
New research from the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago has revealed new hunger mechanisms in the brain which make sweet treats irresistible – and the famed Krispy Kreme doughnuts have paved the way for the discovery.
In the study, subjects’ brains were scanned twice – once after eating up to eight Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and on another day after fasting for eight hours.
In both sessions subjects were shown pictures of doughnuts and, strangely, screwdrivers while their brains were being scanned using functional MRI.
When scanned immediately after eating, the subjects didn’t register much interest in the doughnuts, but after fasting, two areas of the brain reacted to the photographs.
First, the limbic system, which detects things that are motivationally significant, responded to the messages.
Then the brain’s spatial attention network – which directs attention to items relevant to our needs – shifted the subjects’ focus onto the doughnuts (Cereb Cortex, online 27 February).
This highlighted the importance of these parts of the brain in focusing and controlling our desires, the researchers said.
“If we didn’t have this part of the brain, every time you passed by a bakery you would have no control over your eating,” they said.
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