‘Food Words’ Can Be Enough to Trigger Overeating, Say Studies

By Mike Pomranz |

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Be careful what you read. Turns out you don’t need to walk into your favorite pizza shop or even turn on the Food Network to start feeling the desire to overeat. Simply seeing certain food-related words is enough to spark poor eating choices by those who are predisposed to having weight problems according to a couple of recent studies.

One study monitored the brain activity of obese people and normal-weight people while they looked at a mix of words describing both high-calorie and low-calorie foods. "Our study found that individuals with obesity had a stronger response to words associated with high-calorie foods — such as chocolate spread and chicken wings — in a widespread neural circuit spanning multiple areas of the brain," study leader Susan Carnell was quoted as saying. Though to be fair, if you don’t have a reaction to reading the phrase “chocolate spread,” you’re probably just dead inside.

A second study by the same group found a correlation between responses to food words and a teen’s obesity risk.

The researchers said they hope these findings, which are currently considered only preliminary, can be used to combat obesity by helping people recognize what triggers their eating. “It may be possible to train our brains to react differently to certain food cues,” said Martin Binks, a spokesman for The Obesity Society (which, frankly, sounds like a really fun society to be a part of). "This research is a step toward better understanding how food words -- relatively minimal food cues -- may influence food consumption.”

Hm, I guess I should take down that poster in my living room that simply says, “CHICKEN PARM.”

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