In a study that offered hope to human dieters, rats on a 30-day diet exercised intense resistance signals to favored, high-fat food pellets.
The experiment was designed to test resistance to a phenomenon known as “craving incubation,” meaning that the longer a desired substance is denied, the more likely it is to ignore cues for it. gets difficult. The findings suggest that exercise controlled how hard the rats were willing to work for the cues associated with the pellets, indicating how much they wanted them.
Although more research needs to be done, studies may indicate that exercise may increase abstinence when it comes to certain foods, said Washington State University physiology and neuroscience researcher Travis Browne.
“An important part of maintaining a diet is having some brain power — the ability to say ‘No, I’m craving this, but I’m going to diet’,” said Brown, corresponding author of the study published in magazine obesity, “Exercise can be beneficial not only physically for weight loss but also mentally for gaining control of cravings for unhealthy foods.”
In the experiment, Brown and colleagues at WSU and the University of Wyoming put 28 rats through a training regimen with a lever that, when pressed, turned on a light and made a tone before being given a high-fat pellet. After the training period, they tested to see how often the rats pressed a lever to receive only the light and tone cues.
The researchers then divided the rats into two groups: one underwent a high-intensity treadmill walking regime; The other had no extra exercise other than their regular activity. Both sets of rats were denied access to high-fat pellets for 30 days. At the end of that period, the researchers gave rats access to a lever that once again fired pellets, but this time when the lever was pressed, they gave only light and tone signals. The animals that did not receive exercise pressed the lever significantly more than the exercised mice, indicating that exercise reduced the craving for pellets.
In future studies, the research team plans to examine the effect of different levels of exercise on this type of craving as well as how exercise works in the brain to inhibit the desire for unhealthy foods.
While this study is novel, Brown said it is based on the work of Jeff Grimm at Western Washington University, who led the team that first defined the term “incubation of craving” and studied other methods of removing it. Brown also credits Marilyn Carroll-Santi’s research at the University of Minnesota showing that exercise can blunt a craving for cocaine.
It is still an unresolved research question whether food, like drugs, can lead to addiction. Not all foods have addictive effects; As Brown pointed out, “Nobody eats broccoli.” However, people respond to cues such as fast-food ads encouraging them to eat foods high in fat or sugar, and those cues can make the diet harder to resist over the long term.
Brown said the ability to disregard these signals may be another way exercise improves health.
“Exercise is beneficial from several perspectives: it helps with heart disease, obesity and diabetes; it may also help with the ability to avoid some of these unhealthy foods,” he said. “We are always on the lookout for this magic bullet in some way or another, and with all these benefits, exercise is right in front of us.”
material provided by Washington State University, Original written by Sara Zaske. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.