Eating issues pose a serious public health threat. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders kill more people than any other mental health condition.
A 2009 American Journal of Psychiatry study found 4% of people with anorexia die from the condition. A 2013 American Journal of Public Health study linked 1 in 5 deaths to obesity. Obesity can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and other life-threatening health conditions.
Does Taste Lead to Unhealthy Eating Habits?
Researchers recruited 106 women of similar age to undergo brain scans while tasting either sugar water or flavorless water. They then observed the behavior of the brain’s insular cortex. This region is the brain’s primary taste cortex. They theorized the insular cortex might be less able to discern tastes in people with obesity and anorexia.
Women with obesity or anorexia nervosa were less adept at distinguishing between ordinary and sugar water. Women who had never had an eating disorder, as well as those who had recovered from anorexia, did not experience these difficulties.hormone that aids in feelings of satiation, is altered in people with obesity and anorexia. This may change the way the brain responds to food.
Either structural changes within the insular cortex or altered neural processing could account for difficulties processing taste. People who reach a healthy weight no longer experience changes in leptin, suggesting this biochemical change can make it more difficult to overcome unhealthy eating habits.
One solution, the study’s authors say, is to increase flavor intensity for people with obesity and reduce it for those with anorexia.
- Eating disorders statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/
- Hernandez, L. (2016, May 17). CU taste study may lead to new treatments for eating disorders. Retrieved from http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/cu-taste-study-may-lead-to-new-treatments-for-eating-disorders
- Laidman, J. (2013, August 15). Obesity’s toll: 1 in 5 deaths linked to excess weight. Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/809516
- Obese or anorexic individuals react differently to taste, study says. (2016, May 16). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160516115439.htm
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