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Reward Sensitivity Triggered by TV Commercials Leads to Junk Food and Obesity

Update Date: Aug 06, 2012 07:40 AM EDT

The increasing rate of obesity in US has been attributed to the easy accessibility to cheap junk food. However, a study by University of Queensland has found that even though this food is accessible to everyone, many people still lie in the healthy weight range. 

The reason behind has been pinned to different personality traits in people. UQ School of Psychology lecturer Dr Natalie Loxton and UQ student Samantha Byrne studied what exactly makes some of us more vulnerable to food temptation and gain weight.  

Even though many of us watch the same TV commercials, some of us are prone to be tempted more than others by advertisements featuring mouth-watering hamburger. The study examined the cause of such cravings.

The paper was presented by Loxton at the annual conference of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), Zurich. 

The study claims that it is the reward sensitivity which plays the most important role in influencing some people and gets attracted by cues such as junk food commercials. 

"We tested whether reward-sensitive individuals would experience greater pleasure and urge to eat after watching TV commercials featuring junk food, compared with those featuring healthy food or no food," Loxton said in the press release. 

For the study, 75 men and women were shown a 30 minute film embedded with junk food, healthy food, or no food featured in the commercials. Later, the participants were asked to rate the pleasantness of food images and their desire to eat. 

"As hypothesized, reward sensitivity was associated with an increase in urge to eat in the junk food condition," Loxton said. "There was no association in the healthy food condition and a reduced desire to eat in the no food condition."

Also, the study found that only in women, the liking towards junk food was associated with reward sensitivity. But there was no association found between reward sensitivity and liking towards healthy food or non-food images.

Loxton says that the findings of the study point to the role of high reward sensitivity in individuals responsible for wanting food in response to appetitive food cues.

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