Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What Pavlov Can Tell Us About Why We Eat Too Much

Here are a few of the things that can make you hungry: seeing, smelling, reading, or even thinking about food. Hearing music that reminds you of a good meal. Walking by a place where you once ate something good. Even after you’ve just had a hearty lunch, imagining something delicious can make you salivate. Being genuinely hungry, on the other hand—in the sense of physiologically needing food—matters little. It’s enough to walk by a doughnut shop to start wanting a doughnut. Studies show that rats that have eaten a lot are just as eager to eat chocolate cereal as hungry rats are to eat laboratory chow. Humans don’t seem all that different. More often than not, we eat because we want to eat—not because we need to. Recent studies show that our physical level of hunger, in fact, does not correlate strongly with how much hunger we say that we feel or how much food we go on to consume...The idea that environmental cues affect hunger is not a new one. As early as 1905, Ivan Pavlov demonstrated as much by training dogs to salivate when they heard a bell. In the nineteen-seventies, the French obesity researcher France Bellisle proposed that the timing and the size of human meals was “essentially determined by sociocultural factors,” which could, in turn, override the physiological signals sent by our bodies. Physiology, in other words, had become a secondary consideration. more

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