You drive home from work, see a big advertisement from a fast food restaurant and feel you actually are hungry. Sounds familiar? Researchers from Germany’s Max Planck Institute now proved that just seeing food indeed influences key hormone levels regulating hunger.
Seeing Food Is Enough
If you watched my video from last week, you may remember that in there we said that the best way to avoid eating is keeping your mind off of it and food out of sight, instead of trying to actively force direct resistance against munching something down.
Now scientists tackled the subject from a different angle and proved that just seeing pictures of food can have tremendous impact on our cravings: in an experiment, they showed participants pictures of either edible or inedible objects and measured hormone levels related to hunger.
They found that the concentration of the hormone ghrelin in the blood increases specifically in response to stimulation from food images. Ghrelin plays a key role in hunger regulation – the higher its level, the hungrier you are. The people being shown the neutral images experienced no change.
Avoid Visual Stimulation?
Petra Schüssler, one of the people responsible for the study, remarks on the institute’s homepage:
The findings of our study demonstrate, for the first time, that the release of ghrelin into the blood for the regulation of food consumption is also controlled by external factors. Our brain thereby processes these visual stimuli, and the physical processes that control our perception of appetite are triggered involuntarily. This mechanism could prompt us to eat a piece of cake just two hours after breakfast”.
She goes on to recommend “that individuals with weight problems should preferably avoid looking at images of appetising food”.
Which is easier said than done, Mrs. Schüssler. You drive home from work, you see food billboards. You turn on your television, you see food commercials. You open a magazine, you see food advertisements.
Picture courtesy of Steve Snodgrass.