Merely seeing photos of treats like chocolate cake and cookies triggered reactions in regions of the brain that help regulate appetite control and pleasure and reward, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.
The study was small in scope; researchers scanned the brains of 13 obese women as they looked at images of sugary treats. However, the researchers found "parallels between substances of abuse, like cocaine, and highly palatable foods," according to lead author Kathleen Page of the University of Southern California. "Some of the same brain regions light up."
Study participants also were asked to rate their appetite before and after the experiment; they were generally hungrier after looking at the photos (Carroll, "The Body Odd," MSNBC.com, 6/26).