Mmmm, check out that pizza! Looks delicious, right? WATCH OUT: you've just gained five pounds. Or you totally will in the next few months, according to science!
A new study finds that young women who react strongly to pictures of "appealing food" are more likely to gain weight in the next six months compared to women who are unaffected by tantalizing food porn. Ladies that react to "sexual imagery" — such as photos of nude couples kissing — are more likely to be sexually active in the next six months, too.
The nucleus accumbens region of the brain is associated with reward, and certain health conditions like bulimia have been linked to high nucleus accumbens activity in response to food-related cues, so the researchers behind this study were curious whether there was any "predictive power" at play. They needed a group of volunteers who might be at risk of gaining weight, so they gathered a bunch of female college freshman because, you know, the dreaded "Freshman 15" and all that. The women had their brains scanned while watching images of "delicious-looking food, environmental scenes, and people," the latter including the aforementioned seXXXy pics. (I feel like they could have done better than "nude couples kissing," but whatever.)
Six months later, the volunteers were asked back for another weigh-in and more surveys. The women whose nucleus accumbens responded more strongly to pictures of food were the ones most likely to gain weight, and women with a stronger nucleus accumbens reaction to erotic images were more likely to report at least one sexual partner during the six months following the brain scans. A strong nucleus accumbens reaction was also linked with more sexual desire. These reactions were behavior-specific: weight gain was only linked with the response to food pictures, and sexual desire and activity were linked only to the response to sexy pictures. Unfortunately for the trees, no one reacted as intensely to the neutral environment scenes — apparently there were no diehard environmentalists in the group.
The researchers concluded that "controlling temptation may be a careful balancing act between parts of the brain that get excited for rewards and parts of the brain that rein in these urges," but that this is probably not a valid way to predict weight gain over longer time periods (YOU THINK?) because people might exercise stronger willpower. (And because this study is kind of bullshit?) Still, "having the knowledge that these things can influence us in these implicit, unconscious sorts of ways is helpful in a sense because it allows us to be aware that when we're seeing these things we really have to be switched on and self-regulate," one researcher told LiveScience.
In conclusion: Don't click here. Or here. (NSFW, so don't click for real, maybe.) Or eat anything or watch anything or go outside in general. Inside might be dangerous, too. You should probably just wear a blindfold and call it a day.
Brain Scans Predict Weight Gain, Sexual Behavior [LiveScience]