Research showed that drinking sugary soft drinks increased the desire for high-calorie food
As you innocently walk down the high street you see a giant burger on a billboard or an ad for ice cream at the bus-stop shelter. Is it any wonder then, that when you get home, you’re desperately craving some high-calorie food? Well, according to researchers from Columbia University Medical Center, it’s not your fault, it’s all down to your brain.
Researchers there used functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess the brain’s responses to images of high-calorie foods. Only women were used for the study as previous research has indicated that they respond more strongly to food cues than men. The participants were shown images of burgers, biscuits and cakes, as well as fruits and vegetables. Each participant was asked to rate her appetite for either sweet or savoury foods on a scale of one to 10 after each viewing. The women were also given sugary drinks halfway through the scans; some had a glucose-based drink, others a fructose-based one.
Unsurprisingly, the women rated their appetite for high-calorie foods as higher after viewing high-calorie food images – and the reward areas in their brains were activated when they viewed these images. Unexpectedly, however, when women drank a sugary soft drink, their desire for high-calorie foods increased. Furthermore, fructose appeared to stimulate greater hunger for calorific foods compared to glucose.
If further research supports these findings, it would have major implications for the soft drink industry. Soft drinks are thought to be a major contributing factor in rising obesity – partly because people don’t view them as being high-calorie but also because many are so high in sugar. They are considered so detrimental to the health of the population that the Mayor of New York is talking of banning supersized cups of soft drinks.