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Self-restraint shown to be instinctive by study
09.27.2012Findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience indicate that when a person's mind tells them to put down the fork, he or she might be responding to a naturally occurring brain chemical process, as opposed to cognitively-based worries about weight gain.
"In many cases, these systems guide behavior in the same direction, so there's no conflict between them," said Cendri Hutcherson, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech University. "In other cases, like the all-too-common inner fight to resist the temptation of eating the chocolate cake, they can guide behavior toward different outcomes."
Enough chocolate cake, and other desserts high in fat and sugar, plus a lack of physical activity, can lead to obesity, which the World Health Organization says will result in more deaths this year than starvation in the majority of nations. Having a body mass index over 30 can lead to heart attack or stroke, conditions for which individuals need immediate care from emergency department physicians to survive.
For the study, 26 participants were kept hungry for four hours. Then, their brain activity was recorded with an MRI scan while they were shown foods displayed on a computer screen. For each item, those surveyed had to decide what the foods were worth to them under three different conditions - having to restrain themselves from eating, being encouraged to eat, and if they were acting normally. By observing areas of the brain associated with self-restraint, the researchers noticed that a chemical reaction of resistance only clicked in their subjects' brains when, at first, they were tempted with an unhealthy choice.
Antonio Rangel, the main author of the Journal of Neuroscience paper, states that individuals assess options by thinking of them in terms of varying levels of value and pick the choice with the greatest value. In other words, if a person's brain values healthiness more than eating cake, it's easier to turn down the extra calories.
Study shows obese children overeat compulsively
Meanwhile, research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (UPSN) indicated that children afflicted with obesity may lack the self-regulatory instinct in the previously mentioned study. According to the UPSN findings, youngsters with a body mass index over 30 take in almost 35 percent more calories between meals and when they're already full than kids of average weight. The study's lead author Tanja Kral told the Inquisitir that the natural chemical reactions that should tell obese kids' brains that they are full or hungry have been dulled.
Categories: Emergency medicine
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