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Monday, July 26, 2010

Food-Cue Responses Differ in Overweight and Lean Women: Study

Mildly interesting obesity/eating study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Jul 21 - Overweight people may respond more to a piping hot pizza, but they don't necessarily eat more of it in a single sitting, a new study shows.

University of Bristol graduate student Danielle Ferriday and her faculty advisor, Dr. Jeffrey Brunstrom, wanted to know if overweight and lean people respond differently to "food cues," and, if they do, how the mind translates these different levels of "desire-to-eat."

"We all need to eat and we all encounter many food-related cues in our everyday lives," Ferriday told Reuters Health.

The two researchers enrolled 52 normal weight and 52 overweight women in the study, exposed them for 60 seconds to the sight and smell of pizza, and measured how much they salivated, as well as their psychological responses.

While lean participants didn't salivate much more than usual when they saw and smelled the pizza, the overweight participants salivated about a third more than usual. They also had more desire to eat, measured by a standard scale, than the lean study subjects.

However, the overweight participants didn't eat more, even after being told to eat as much as they'd like.

What that means, say the researchers, is that overweight people don't necessarily eat more when at the table, but, because of their heightened sensitivity to the cues, they may go to the table more often.

"This is potentially important, because this sensitivity may encourage snacking" and other bad eating habits that are "associated with increased energy intake, overweight and weight gain," the investigators said in their report, published online June 15th in the International Journal of Obesity.

The study couldn't answer why overweight people are more turned on by food. It is not clear, for example, whether they are born that way or whether eating habits learned and developed over time cause a change.

While all the subjects in this study were women, "we suspect that the findings would apply to men too," Ferriday said.

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