Vision Your Weight Loss
Seeing pictures of food with calorie information not only makes food less appetizing but it also appears to change the way your brain responds to the food, according to a Dartmouth-led study published in PLOS ONE. When food images appeared with the calorie content, the brain showed decreased activation of the reward system and increased activation in the control system. In other words, foods that you might otherwise be inclined to eat became less desirable once the calorie content was displayed.
“Our findings suggest that calorie-labeling may alter responses in the brain’s reward system when considering food options. Moreover, we believe that nutritional interventions are likely to be more successful if they take into account the motivation of the consumer, including whether or not they diet,” says first author Andrea Courtney, who was a graduate student in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth at the time of the study and is currently a postdoctoral student at the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab at Stanford University.
While dieters and non-dieters alike rated calorie-labeled foods as less appetizing, this effect was strongest among dieters.
“In order to motivate people to make healthier food choices, policy changes are needed that incorporate not only nutritional information, including calorie content, but also a public education component, which reinforces the long-term benefits of a healthy diet,” added senior author Kristina Rapuano, who was a graduate student in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth at the time of the study and is currently a postdoctoral student at the Fundamentals of the Adolescent Brain Lab at Yale University.