Calorie information may alter brain responses to food cues by simultaneously reducing reward system activation and increasing control system activation. Therefore, combining an awareness of calories with the motivation to control them may be more effective in inducing behavioral change with regard to diet.
For the first time, a study has examined the influence of calorie information on brain responses to food images.
Study participants were randomized into dieting and non-dieting groups. During functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning, the two groups were then showed pictures of food with and without calorie information and they were asked to rate their desire to eat the food.
Researchers observed that the self-reported desire to eat the food decreased when the subjects were shown pictures of food with calorie information. The reward system activation also decreased and the control system activation (the frontoparietal control system) increased.
Whole brain multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) revealed patterns of activation in the orbitofrontal cortex (a region of the reward system) that were more similar for food images presented with and without calorie information in dieting than non-dieting participants, suggesting that dieters i.e. individuals with greater experience or stronger motivations to consider calorie information may spontaneously consider calorie information when viewing food.
These findings from a new first-of-its-kind study published in the journal PLoS One has demonstrated how the brain makes food choices when calorie information is also presented and thus shows the way for encouraging individuals to maintain a healthy body weight.
(Source: PLos One. 2018;13(11):e0204744; Science Daily, 20 December 2018)
Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Past National President IMA