Regardless of whether you are trying to lose weight or simply maintain a healthy body weight, the topic of calories has likely come up a time or two. And although current research points to the importance of calorie quality over calorie quantity, it may not make a bean hill of difference when it comes to your brain.
As it turns out, our brains may be craving high-calorie foods even when we don’t know it. Scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital in Canada asked about 30 people to take part in a unique study—one in which they were asked to look at 50 images of different types of food and estimate their calorie content, as well as rate how well they liked them.
After viewing the images, study participants were asked to bid on each food item in a mock auction so that researchers could determine how much they wanted it. Interestingly, while their estimated calorie counts were incorrect the majority of the time, it seems their brains were one step ahead.
The more calories a particular food had, the more the participants were willing to pay for it—indicating their brains had no trouble picking out the high-calorie items. In fact, when high-calorie foods appeared, MRI scans showed increased activity in the areas of the brain that process the taste and sensory properties of food. Basically, your brain is evaluating the calorie content of your next meal even if you are unaware of it.
Scientists believe this insight into why people choose certain foods may help determine the factors that lead to obesity and related conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.