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‘Food Words’ can Trigger Overeating, Two Studies Report

Update Date: Nov 06, 2015 04:02 PM EST

Two new studies reported that certain words, when paired with stress and genetics, could trigger people to overeat.

In the first study, researchers examined the brain activity of 17 obese and 12 normal-weight adults as they were looking at food words. The words were either describing a high-calorie food or a low-calorie one.

The researchers found that when it came to high-calorie food words, such as chicken wings, the obese participants were more likely to respond than the normal-weight participants. When the researchers added the factor of stress, they found that obese participants were more likely to want to eat the high calorie food that the word was describing.

"When we subjected individuals to a combined social and physiological stressor, both individuals with obesity and those of normal weight showed slightly altered responses to high-calorie food words, but only those with obesity ate more at a subsequent meal," lead investigator of the study, Susan Carnell, said reported by WebMD.

Carnell concluded the way people react to food words and stress could explain why some people are obese while others are not.

In the second study, Carnell and her colleagues focused on a much younger sample group. The team examined the relationship between food words and risk of obesity in teenagers who had genetic variants that increased their risk of obesity.

The researchers found that food words mixed with these genetic variants can increase appetite and consumption.

"This research is a step toward better understanding how food words - relatively minimal food cues - influence food consumption and how other common experiences like stress may interact with associated food cues to influence eating behavior," the spokesman for The Obesity Society, Martin Binks, commented. These types of studies may eventually lead to more effective behavioral strategies."

The team hopes that their findings can pave way for future researchers who might be interested in finding ways to prevent the brain from reacting to food words, especially if stress and genetics are at play. By understanding what might exactly is triggering the brain to want more food, researchers might be able to reverse the effects in order to prevent obesity.

The studies' findings were presented at Obesity Week, which is being hosted by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and The Obesity Society.

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