In a classic case of ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ a new study has found a link between our perceptions, brain reactions, our diet/lifestyle, and weight. Researchers found that normal weight individuals tend to have perceptions about highly processed foods/additives that differ from others’ perceptions. For normal/healthy weight (and underweight) individuals, highly processed foods (and their accompanying risks due to additives) are perceived in terms of ‘the set and setting’ (eg pizza is reserved for a special celebration) and whole, natural foods (perceived by their sensory characteristics) are the normal, every day fare. The resulting brain activity associated with these perceptions also differ.
This begs the question, which came first? Certainly there are people who respond to a battle with controlling their weight or a serious health diagnosis by working to change their perceptions about the role of food in their lives; presumably, over time, their brain activity would reflect those changes in perceptions and reactions to natural foods and highly processed foods. While science awaits the answer to this question, the key takeaway is to understand that our perceptions of natural, whole foods and highly processed, additive-laden foods, play a key role in how our brains–and ultimately our bodies–respond when confronted with these two food types.
Our weight tells how we assess food
A new study demonstrated that people of normal weight tend to associate natural foods such as apples with their sensory characteristics. On the other hand, processed foods such as pizzas are generally associated with their function or the context in which they are eaten. But that’s not all. The research also highlighted the ways in which underweight people pay greater attention to natural foods and overweight people to processed foods. Even when subjected to the same stimuli, these two groups show different electroencephalography signals…
The results of research carried out reveals that the way we process different foods changes in accordance with our body mass index. With two behavioral and electroencephalographic experiments, the study demonstrated that people of normal weight tend to associate natural foods such as apples with their sensory characteristics such as sweetness or softness.
On the other hand, processed foods such as pizzas are generally associated with their function or the context in which they are eaten such as parties or picnics.
Journal Reference: Giulio Pergola, Francesco Foroni, Paola Mengotti, Georgette Argiris, Raffaella Ida Rumiati. A neural signature of food semantics is associated with body-mass index. Biological Psychology, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2017.09.001