A new study has raveled that you can blame tasty food temptations on daily stress and the brain’s poor ability to deal with it when you want to adhere to a healthy diet.
Researchers from the University of Zurich inform that when someone finds themselves under stress, their brain’s signal for taste simply becomes louder than their intention to stick to healthy foods. Even modest or mild levels of stress will sabotage a well thought out diet.
Todd Hare, neuroscientist from the University of Zurich and the study’s senior author, gave a statement informing that for someone to be able to control and regulate their decision-making process, a complex interplay has to take place between different areas of their brain.
He then added that “There’s not just one region or node [of the brain] that turns on and off to establish self-control; they have to all sync up and work in unison. Stress disrupts that synchrony”.
To reach these findings, the researchers selected 51 men who said that they wanted to respect a healthy diet, but who also admitted that sometimes they chose to consume unhealthy foods.
The main goal for Hare and his colleagues was to find out how the mild or moderate stress that people have to get passed on a daily basis affects their food choices.
They hooked up the subjects to fMRI brain scanners before asking them to choose between different foods (a tasty but unhealthy one vs a healthy but less tasty one). This helped them see how the subjects’ brains were affected by the stress and the decision-making process.
The consequences of their answers were real as the subjects had to eat the foods that they selected after looking at their pictures. While the tasty yet unhealthy foods were seen as immediate rewards, the healthy but less tasty foods were seen as rewards in the long run since they contributed to a person’s overall health.
As a measure of control the men were also divided into two (2) separate groups – 29 of them had to immerse a hand in ice-water as the researchers videotape the experience, the rest of them were not put through any type of stressful experience.
The subjects were then hooked up to the above mentioned fMRI brain scanners and showed photos of an unhealthy snack next to a healthy snack.
The fMRI machine taught researchers that three (3) separate areas of the human brain activate when people have to choose which food they want to eat. The relationships between them also change during this process.
The results showed that the men who were put through the ice-water test before choosing what to eat usually picked the unhealthy food in the photo.
Silvia Maier, neuroscientist working at the University of Zurich, gave a statement explaining that the danger appears when the healthy and the unhealthy snacks are very different in their taste. That’s when people usually chose the unhealthy food.
But if the two (2) snacks are very similar in their taste, people usually chose the healthy food.
The study was published on August 5, 2015, in the journal Neuron.
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