Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Does food act physiologically like a 'drug of choice' for some?

Date:
July 20, 2011
Source:
American Society for Nutrition
Summary:
Researchers say reducing variety in food choices may represent an important strategy for those trying to lose weight.

Variety is considered the "spice of life," but does today's unprecedented level of dietary variety help explain skyrocketing rates of obesity? Some researchers think it might.
Credit: paul prescott / Fotolia

Variety is considered the "spice of life," but does today's unprecedented level of dietary variety help explain skyrocketing rates of obesity? Some researchers think it might.

According to ASN Spokesperson Shelley McGuire, PhD: "We've known for years that foods- even eating, itself- can trigger release of various brain chemicals, some of which are also involved in what happens with drug addiction and withdrawal. And, as can happen with substance abusers, tolerance or "habituation" can occur, meaning that repeated use (in this case, exposure to a food) is sometimes accompanied by a lack of response (in this case, disinterest in the food). The results of the study by Epstein and colleagues provides a very interesting new piece to the obesity puzzle by suggesting that meal monotony may actually lead to reduced calorie consumption. The trick will be balancing this concept with the importance of variety to good nutrition."

Studies have shown that many people become disinterested in a particular food when they are repeatedly exposed to it. This response, called habituation, can decrease caloric intake in the short-run. Conversely, when presented with a variety of foods, caloric intake can increase. The "food addiction hypothesis" purports that some people may overeat because they are insensitive to the normal habituation response and thus need even more exposure to a food to trigger a disinterest. However, there has been no rigorous research investigating whether healthy-weight and overweight individuals have different habituation responses, and little is known about what patterns of food exposure are most powerful in triggering habituation. To help close these research gaps, researchers studied long-term habituation in obese and nonobese women.

Their results, and an accompanying editorial by Nicole Avena and Mark Gold, are published in the August 2011 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Sixteen nonobese [BMI (in kg/m2) < 30] and 16 obese (BMI  30) women were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: the "weekly group" participated in weekly experimental food exposure sessions for 5 wk, whereas the "daily group" were studied daily for 5 consecutive days. During each 28-min experimental session, subjects were asked to complete a variety of tasks after which they were "rewarded" by being given a 125-kcal portion of macaroni and cheese. Participants could work for as much food as they wanted. The researchers then evaluated total energy intake.

Whereas weekly food exposure increased total caloric intake by approximately 30 kcal/d, daily exposure decreased energy consumption by ~100 kcal/d. This supports long-term habituation in terms of caloric intake. Very few differences were found between how obese and nonobese individuals responded.

The authors concluded that reducing variety in food choices may represent an important strategy for those trying to lose weight. Moreover, having a person even remember that they have eaten a certain food recently may be effective in this regard. In their accompanying editorial, Avena and Gold compare physiologic components of the food addiction hypothesis to the body's addictive responses to drugs. They also ponder whether school-lunch planners and public health officials should note that diversity in the menu is not necessarily a virtue" but might instead "be associated with promoting excess food intake and increased body mass index." Provocative food for thought.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Nutrition. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. H. Epstein, K. A. Carr, M. D. Cavanaugh, R. A. Paluch, M. E. Bouton. Long-term habituation to food in obese and nonobese women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011; DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.110.009035

Cite This Page:

American Society for Nutrition. "Does food act physiologically like a 'drug of choice' for some?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110719114340.htm>.
American Society for Nutrition. (2011, July 20). Does food act physiologically like a 'drug of choice' for some?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110719114340.htm
American Society for Nutrition. "Does food act physiologically like a 'drug of choice' for some?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110719114340.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Who Can't Afford Medical Care Flock to Free US Clinic

Thousands Who Can't Afford Medical Care Flock to Free US Clinic

AFP (July 23, 2014) America may be the world’s richest country, but in terms of healthcare, the World Health Organisation ranks it 37th. Thousands turned out for a free clinic run by "Remote Area Medical" with a visit from the Governor of Virginia. Duration: 2:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins