This is Your Brain on Junk Food

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

A new study could help public policy decision-makers answer the question: Should junk-food be subject to the same advertising regulations as tobacco?

Alain Dagher, a researcher at McGill’s Montreal Neurological Institute, examined how the human brain behaved in the presence of food. His study was published by Cell Press in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism. He concluded that one of the main reasons for the increase in obesity might be a heightened sensitivity to heavily advertised and easily accessible junk foods.

With the help of non-invasive functional neuroimaging of the human brain, it is possible to understand the neural control of eating in humans. “There has been great interest in looking at the brain for the source of vulnerability to overeating in a world of cheap, abundant, high-calorie food”, says Dagher. According to his research, anticipatory signals, which are transmitted when a person makes a food choice, play a key role in the vulnerability of obesity. Brain activation, in response to sweet or fatty food cues, is greater with obese individuals.

Read more about this study here.

This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the FRSQ, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Parkinson Society of Canada, the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders and Unilever PLC.

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