Obese People Enjoy Food Less
Obese people enjoy food less than lean people, according to a brain imaging study from the Oregon Research Institute.
It might be expected that obese people would enjoy food more; however this study shows that is where the problem is. Obese people eat more high-calorie food to make up for the lack of enjoyment.
"We originally thought obese people would experience more reward from food. But we see obese people only anticipate more reward; they get less reward. It is an ironic process," Stice tells WebMD.
The research involved showing women a picture of a chocolate milkshake and a picture of a glass of water. They found the heavier the woman, the more active the pleasure center in her brain. Then the women actually tasted a chocolate milkshake or a neutral solution. Heavier women had less activity in their brains' pleasure centers.
"The more you do things that are rewarding, the less reward you see," Stice says. "The more you eat an unhealthy diet, the more you see this blunted pleasure response to high-energy foods."
"People with the most blunted reward circuits are at the most risk of overeating, and the more they engage in eating, the more you see downregulation of their reward circuitry," Stice says. "They eat more to get the same reward."
Stice is now looking at whether obese people who switch to a healthy diet can reset their pleasure circuitry. He finds that when obese people stop eating energy-dense foods, their craving for such foods goes down, not up.
"If we can get obese people to improve the quality of their diets and stay the course for long time, eventually they do much better in craving and their pleasure circuits should go back to their old balance," he says.
These findings are found in the Oct. 17 issue of the journal Science.
This article is rather interesting in that we generally think of obesity as a metabolic, genetic, behavioral problem, but looking at obesity in terms of the brain may bring us closer to understanding this epidemic.