Craving control: how food messes with your mind


By Chloe Lambert YOU’VE just had a hearty lunch, but the doughnuts next to your desk are winking at you. You can’t shake the thought of what the glazed, soft dough would taste like – and know that you won’t be able to get on with your day until you have it. On a basic level our relationship with food is simple – signals between the gut and the brain tell us when we’re hungry, and when we are full. But experience shows us that the drive to eat is much more tangled and irrational. Some of that is down to the reward hit – the feeling of pleasure, mediated by the brain’s reward centre – that we get from eating calorie-dense food like that glistening doughnut. Indeed, the effect of such foods has led some to liken our desire for them to drug addiction. But we now know the gut itself, and also the microbes inside it, manipulate what we crave, painting a much more complex picture of the forces that determine the way we see food. Cravings could even be contagious – literally. When it comes to food, we’re not as in control as we might think. “People think we have much more conscious control over our eating behaviour than we do. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes and it makes it very difficult to exert control on it,” says Tony Goldstone,
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