- A new study, focusing on how the body responds to diets and lifestyle changes, suggests that visual and olfactory stimuli may be a major contributing factor to the obesity crisis.
- A “brain subnet” that can affect attempts to lose weight can be negatively affected by seeing or smelling food, leading to overeating.
- Weight loss is still possible, of course, but it can be more complicated than previously thought.
A global health crisis is happening right now, and no, I'm not talking about the coronavirus pandemic (though it certainly qualifies). I am speaking of the rising obesity rate in many countries and our apparent inability to fight back. There are so many studies pointing to a wide variety of factors playing a role in our growing waistlines, from higher calorie processed foods to physical inactivity. However, a new study published in NeuroImage suggests that our eyes may play a big role in why so many people keep winning and winning.
The study suggests that what we see on our plates or on a restaurant's menu can have a dramatic impact on how we feel about food and how full we feel.
For the study, the researchers recruited nearly 100 people who were willing to undergo dramatic lifestyle changes and commit to diet changes and regular gym visits to keep exercise. The volunteers were given an MRI to see how their brain activity affected their appetite. Follow-up examinations were carried out after six months.
What the scientists discovered is that sight and smell actually have a massive impact on feelings of fullness and contentment. The researchers suggest that this indicates that losing weight, even when a healthy diet and exercise are provided, is not just a matter of willpower, but is directly related to stimuli emanating from the visual and olfactory systems.
"To our surprise, we found that higher levels of executive function, as measured by behavior, were dominant factors in weight loss, but were not reflected in patterns of brain connectivity," said Gidon Levakov, lead author of the study, in a statement. "As a result, we have found that weight loss is not just a matter of willpower, but actually involves much more basic visual and olfactory cues."
Visual cues in particular appear to be "an important contributing factor in overeating". Put simply, when you see the food you want to finish it or eat as much as you can. The scientists attribute their findings to the fact that “vision is the primary sense in humans” and that it can be particularly difficult to ignore visual cues when it comes to seeing food and wanting to eat it.
Of course, this doesn't mean weight loss is impossible, and the researchers note that the "brain subnet" they seem to have discovered can aid in successful weight loss, but other factors, such as visual and olfactory cues, can sometimes go against you Act .
Mike Wehner has covered technology and video games for the past decade, covering the latest news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones and future technology.
Mike most recently served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot and has been featured on USA Today, Time.com, and countless other web and print outlets. His love for
Reporting is second only to his gambling addiction.