A research team at New York University found that craving junk food doesn’t mean that you are hungry. In fact, it means that you may be addicted. Many people with an addiction for unhealthy food are willing to pay more for it.
In the study, researchers analyzed the brain activity of 89 participants. Half of the group agreed to undergo a test to see if they would pay more for an unhealthy snack after being exposed to it. The rest of the group underwent a test to see if they would overpay for the junk food to eat more of it.
Participants were asked to look at color pictures of a can of Coke, a Snickers bar, and a bag of Cheetos. Scientists picked these snacks because they are particularly “tempting” due to their high calorie, added sugar, and fat content. These snacks often lead to weight gain and compulsive eating.
Study Participants Acted Like Full-Blown Addicts
After looking at the pictures, volunteers were given the snack, but asked not to consume it. They were allowed to unwrap them, smell them, break them off and so on. They were also asked to recall a memory of them consuming their favorite snack.
After the experiment, participants’ willingness to pay more for their favorite item jumped twofold. Also, their willingness to shell out more for the other two junk food items increased as well.
The second group underwent a similar test but they were asked to place their bids on larger amounts of the foods or drink. Researchers found that participants wanted to pay more to consume more.
The research team concluded that a junk food craving disrupts people’s brain in a way that they value disproportionately the unhealthy food. This mechanism often occurs in the brains of people with an addiction.
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