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September 25, 2012
What do you usually feel when you look at a chocolate cake like the one at the picture? Mmmm, yummy scummy, uh!! Just looking at chocolate cakes, brownies or other kind of chocolate desserts always evokes appetite and fires up a desire to eat these sugary treats as soon as possible. Desserts bring back the sweetest feelings from our childhood and give absolutely unparalleled delight! Moreover, as the latest findings of a study suggest, it is enough just cast a glance at a picture of an amazing chocolate cake or any one of other easy chocolate desserts, without even feeling its divine smell! Images of chocolate or sugary treats can work perfectly well as appetite stimulants and evoke cravings even in those people who suffer from certain digestive disorders or do not like chocolate treats.
This summer, Dr. Kathleen Page, a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California and her colleagues have presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society their new findings received after analyzing brain scans of the participants exposed to sugary treats and easy chocolate desserts. The scientists found out that in such moments, the parts of the human brain involved in controlling appetite, reacting on something that brings pleasure and something that brings a good reward are getting activated causing increased cravings for sugary treats and increased expectations for pleasure.
For the experiments, Page and her scientific group members invited 13 Hispanic women with extra weight. Before starting the experiment, all of the participants were asked to rate their hunger. Then, some of the women were exposed to the images of chocolate cakes, chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes and other easy chocolate desserts. Others were exposed to the images of various sugar-free foods. Right after that exposure, brain scans of the women were made and all the participants were again asked to rate their hunger. It turned out that those of the participants who had a look at chocolate desserts and sugary treats rated their hunger much higher compared to those women who looked at the pictures of other sugar-free foods.
Certainly, brain scans had also showed certain changes. “What we saw was that the regions of the brain that are involved in reward and hunger lit up,” the study leader commented. Moreover, the scientists found parallel brain responses and reactions in the brain of cocaine addicts when they are exposed to anti-drug social commercials, especially those with images of needles and other related objects. As a reaction, their brain areas responsible for pleasure get activated, and the addicts start experiencing increased cravings. Dr Page and her scientific group has proven that the same effects happen in our brain when we see images of sugary treats and all kind of easy chocolate desserts causing increased cravings.
The second experiment included researching the effects of consuming sugary treats like a sugary drink. The participants were asked to have a sweetened beverage of about 200 calories before having meals, followed by brain scanning. It turned out that the same parts of the brain got activated, but this time the treats played a role of appetite stimulants and hunger of the participants increased after consuming the treats. “Surprisingly, consumption of the sugar drink — which was essentially equivalent to a 16-ounce soda — actually increased the ratings of hunger and desire,” the study leader said. “We didn’t predict a hunger increase with the sugar drink. Apparently the brain saw it as an appetizer as well.”
Moreover, it is interesting to see the comments of female scientists from the expert group who worked together with Dr. Page. All of them underline that during the research they all were constantly finding themselves feeling a great temptation by just looking at the images of sugary treats and easy chocolate desserts. The impact of the findings is quite serious and certain public health response has already been received. In particular, according to the study leader, Disney studio officials made a decision to stop showing ads of sweet treats and beverages in their TV shows for kids. The links between seeing such kinds of ads and increased junk food consumption in modern children have been found by other scientists, Dr. Page said.
Author Info: Hi! My name is Carla and I am a 5th year medical student at HYMS. I am interested in alternative medicine and I have done months researching the topic of herbal medicine. Besides, I like interviewing people and learning more about their experiences with one or another type of herbal treatments. I am willing to contribute to this site with my knowledge, and I would be happy to help you out to the best of my ability with any specific questions or problems related to alternative medicine.