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Hunger pangs cause the brain to lust selectively after more calorie-rich foods, new research has revealed.
In a presentation at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference being held in New Orleans, US, Imperial College London scientist Tony Goldstone showed data from 21 healthy volunteers who were brain scanned as they surveyed and rated images of a range of food offerings seen either while they were hungry, or straight after a sizeable (700 calorie) breakfast.
When fasted, the subjects consistently hankered after fattier, calorie-packed food choices.
This finding was mirrored in the volunteers' brain scans when hungry subjects surveyed more energy-rich foods. A region called the orbitofrontal cortex, which has been linked previously to decision making regarding pleasantness and reward value of food, showed significant boosts in activity when hungry subjects surveyed more energy-rich foods.
According to Goldstone, "this suggests the orbitofrontal cortex may play a vital role in determining how people make dietary choices."
The data also suggest that fasting may be a poor way to lose weight because it biases the brain in favour of higher-calorie food rewards. Moreover, it supports the advice dieticians have been feeding us for years: don't go shopping when you're hungry...