Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obesity riddle solved.

Intriguing new research shows the reward center in the brain of obese people lights up in anticipation of food, more so than in leaner people's. However, their brains show less satisfaction while actually eating the food. In other words, leaner people enjoy food more, crave it less.

My experience bears this out: my imagination goes into overdrive when I'm stressed, thinking about foods that will meet my needs - I want a cupcake, I want the macaroni and cheese sold at the West End Grocery, I want a bag of Cape Cod chips followed by a chocolate truffle. My brain comes up with brand names and locations of previously secured fattening foods. But, I'm often disappointed by these treats or meals I go to a lot of trouble to make, or buy at restaurants. There are many examples on this blog where I describe a fattening meal as "gross" or just not satisfying.

I think my own obsession with recipes and meal planning may indicate I am more controlled by the idea of food, than leaner people are, who think eating a cube of cheese, a hunk of bread and apple are enough for a satisfying meal. I have been reading about the role of dopamine deficiency in the brain and its link to depression, ADD, overeating and other addictions. Just knowing that my craving for ice cream is not my body needing calcium, but my brain needing dopamine, is helpful in examining why I sometimes overeat. Its amazing to think how our behavior is influenced by the chemicals in our brains.

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