American researchers have revealed why the Golden Arches can sometimes be so irresistible, or why it’s often hard to turn down that dessert. In fact, their research about food cravings could be the key to unlocking a healthier lifestyle.
Researchers at the University of Missouri have specifically examined ‘non-homeostatic eating’. This can be described as eating which is driven by taste, habit and cues. “Non-homeostatic eating can be thought of as eating dessert after you’ve eaten an entire meal”, explained researcher Kyle Parker.
“I may know that I’m not hungry, but this dessert is delicious so I’m going to eat it anyway. We’re looking at what neural circuitry is involved in driving that behaviour”, Mr Parker added. The researchers examined the brain activity occurring within rats, who were fed a controlled diet.
When observing the rats, researchers were able to define two distinct processes related to food cravings and consumption. First is the “appetitive” phase, which is followed by the “consummatory phase” within our brains.
“I think of the neon sign for a donut shop – the logo and the aroma of warm glazed donuts are the environmental cues that kick start the craving, or appetitive phase”, explained research professor Matthew Will. “The consummatory phase is after you have that donut in hand and eat it”.
The researchers believe identifying these separate brain processes could lead to better solutions for food addiction. As Science Daily points out, “by revealing the independent circuitry of craving vs. the actual consumption… This could lead to potential drug treatments that are more specific and have less unwanted side effects”.