Essay on Evolution of Food Habits

Magnetic stimulation of the brain areas responsible for executive functions, affect predilection to eat high-calorie food. It was a conclusion in the new study conducted by the researchers from the University Of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. They noted that after stimulating dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), the young women involved in the study had an increased appetite for high-calorific foods; they had an overwhelming desire to eat such food as soon as it appeared possible. Results of the study are presented in the Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.

High-caloric foods are most often seem tempting to people. From an evolutionary point of view, this is due to the desire to accumulate energy whenever possible. For most of human history, this behavior was adaptive, as it ensured the survival of species in terms of the relative scarcity of food or uncertainty of its possession in the near future. However, in a relatively short period in most countries of the world, lack of food was no more a problem, but in order to sell it there was a massive advertising campaign. These changes have led to a marked increase in obesity and other chronic diseases. From the perspective of ecology in the dietary preferences, humankind is in conflict with the environment: high-calorie products appear more appealing; however, this is not an optimal choice for your health, taking into account correlation between consumption and spending of your calories. The effective management of such a conflict is under the influence of the executive functions, with the regulation in DLPFC. These executive functions are the cognitive actions that enable you to change your actions, emotions, and thoughts. In previous studies, scientists have assumed that the DLPFC activity played a key role in the formation and evolution of food habits. At the basic neurological level, DLPFC is involved in the formation of specific preferences, which make us see food products as a reward for waiting.

The participants of the experiment were young healthy women (n = 21, with average age of 21.1). All the participants noted the periodic strong appetite for chocolate and potato chips, the products that can contribute to the development of obesity. The women were shown the images of high-caloric food, and then went through the DLPFK theta pulse stimulation, which led to reduced activity of the cortex. After the theta pulse stimulation, the participants noted the strong cravings to eat high-calorie foods. During the subsequent test, they are much more likely to choose milk chocolate and potato chips than chocolate and biscuits. The researchers noted that reduced activity of DLPFK has also been associated with deterioration of the Stroop test results to determine the flexibility of cognitive control. The participants perceived the use of high-calorie foods as the expected reward.

The results suggest an important role of the executive functions in the evolution of food habits. In today’s world, people are constantly faced with advertising of energy-dense products and their use. The researchers stressed that people with a low level of activity of the investigated cortexes area, low self-control in eating can lead to overweight.

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