I’ve read about a quadrillion studies on obesity research, and it’s rare that one actually makes me reconsider my behavior. This latest one, on a gene variant and the pleasure derived from food, actually did give me pause though. It also might make you think twice about how to feed your kids. Here’s what I mean.
It might seem logical that people who are overweight or obese get more pleasure from food than skinny folks, and that’s why they overeat. But the study says the opposite might be true. Researchers gave chocolate milkshakes (mmm) to 77 young women. Some were lean, some were obese, and some had a gene variant that makes them respond less to dopamine (a chemical important to the pleasure response.) Here’s what they found: Obese women had less of a pleasure response to the milkshakes; this was even more so for women with the gene variant; and women with the gene variant had gained more weight a year later. In the words of one resarcher: “‘If you look at the brain response when people are about to get the
milkshake, obese individuals show greater activation of the reward
circuitry, not less. So, ironically, they expect more
reward but seem to experience less.’” Which kinda makes sense—if anticipate something will be better than it is, you might keep eating it in an effort to get satisfaction.
The researcher suggests that eating a small amount regularly of something high in fat and sugar might not be the way to go, because it could make it hard to stop eating. Perhaps cutting the food out entirely would actually do more for reducing cravings and overeating. And this applies to kids because, well, it may be easiest to build in good habits when you are young. Sigh. I’m a cupcake addict, and my kid likes her daily dessert, but this study might make me re-evaluate the frequency of our treats. Um, maybe. No promises.