THURSDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- A group of Italian researchers has uncovered evidence that regardless of how "full" a person may feel, the body is hard-wired to chemically reward itself by overeating when tempted by yummy foods.
The study on so-called "hedonic hunger" was very small, involving just eight participants, and the authors acknowledge that their findings are preliminary.
They believe, however, that they have identified a physiological link between indulging in goodies well beyond the point of caloric "need" and a reactive jump in levels of two key chemicals.
One chemical is ghrelin, a hormone produced in the stomach that helps regulate reward and motivation. The other is a compound known as "2-AG" (2-arachidonoylglycerol), which is involved in appetite.
"This is a very intriguing study," said Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. "It involves the psychology of the brain, as well as biochemistry. And, yes, it's entirely possible that this kind of chemical overriding might happen, in which the brain wants a particular kind of food even though the person is full." Vinson was not involved in the study.
"What they're talking about here is a Darwinian evolution thing," Vinson added. "We're programmed to stuff ourselves for a rainy day. And when you couple this biochemistry with an environment where food is cheap and available and often provided in huge portion sizes, you basically have everything going against us. It just becomes very hard not to overeat."
The study, led by Dr. Palmiero Monteleone, of the department of psychiatry at the University of Naples SUN in Italy, appears in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
The authors said the notion of essentially eating for fun, as opposed to eating for survival (so-called "homeostatic hunger"), is relatively n
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