What makes food irresistible?

McGill University researchers say that ghrelin, a gut hormone, makes food seem more appealing. Alain Dagher and his colleagues at

McGill University researchers say that ghrelin, a gut hormone, makes food seem more appealing.

Alain Dagher and his colleagues at the Montreal Neurological Institute used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the brain’s response to food and non-food images following ghrelin infusions. Ghrelin not only increased response in several brain regions (including some associated with addiction), it also improved the ability to see and remember the food pictures, says Dagher. These findings were published in Cell Metabolism.

Making food seem more appealing might have been a valuable trait back when pickings were scarce. But in today’s calorie-rich, fast food world, ghrelin can get us into trouble. It’s a small study, but further research might reveal an opportunity to block the hormone, or at least reinforce the argument to limit exposure to unhealthy foods.

In the meantime, don’t let your brain trick you into overeating. Keep empty wrappers and plates around for awhile to remember what you’ve eaten, and don’t get swayed by posh-sounding food descriptions.

Plus, always ask for the nutrition information. I’ll never forget the day I found out that Tim Horton’s chili contains 20 grams of fat!

What tricks do you use?

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