One of the greatest challenges facing humanity right now is obesity, which has become an epidemic, affecting an estimated 650 million people worldwide. One of the main reasons is that we consume more calories than we need. And a lot of that comes from unhealthy foods that are hard to resist.
FOOD FOR FOOD
In fact, more and more people are basing their diets on pleasure rather than physiological needs. This phenomenon, known as hunger or hedonic appetite, occurs when the pleasure evoked by food exceeds satiety, resulting in a powerful—ssometimes compulsive—appeal stimulus that changes our eating habits. In addition, it is known that foods rich in fat and sugar increase this mechanism. Hunger is a craving or an urgent need to eat. However, the regulation of appetite and eating behavior is a very complex process involving two types of factors: internal, driven by hormonal and molecular signals from the gut, adipose tissue, or the brain-gut axis; and external, based primarily on the learning generated by the signals generated when food is consumed. In this second case, in addition to the pure search for pleasure, emotional, cultural, and social elements also intervene. When we eat, we feel a subjective pleasure: we enjoy the presentation of a dish, an aroma, or a texture. We even like the colors we see or the sounds that its ingestion produces. Sensations will enhance that pleasure and increase the likelihood of repeating it.
HUNGER IN SIGHT
The sense of sight is directly involved in this mechanism. It is well known that looking at a meal or its photo is enough to start the physiological process of eating: it increases salivation, activates the secretion of gastric acid, bile and digestive enzymes, and even promotes the release of hormones such as insulin, Cholecystokinin or ghrelin in the blood Above all, it makes you want to put the delicacy in your mouth. In short, What we perceive through our eyes, even if it is only their representation, has a direct influence on our eating habits. In fact, a recent meta-analysis concluded that exposure to visual food stimuli has the same effects as exposure to actual food or olfactory stimuli.
FOOD (SOLO) DIGITAL
The Internet, and especially social networks, constantly presents us with images of very appetizing dishes with impeccable appearances. And this, coupled with the current ease of access to food, could exacerbate the obesity problems we face. But this bombardment could also become an ally in controlling eating behavior, as Tjark Andersen and his collaborators have shown. Some authors have even tentatively suggested that eating food images increases satiety. How is that possible?
Think of a food that you really want, search the internet for pictures of it, and as you look at it, imagine eating it. This lures the brain into stimulating the same areas that would be activated by, say, a real candy bar.
These are the conclusions of a recent study, which found that seeing images repeatedly (about thirty times) and imagining food increases satiety and reduces cravings, compared to the experience of participants who viewed the photo just three times. Previous experiments pointed in the same direction.
In short, pending new studies to confirm this, we may be faced with a new nutritional strategy with long-term positive effects on weight control and eating behavior. Then the expression “eating with your eyes” would no longer be a simple metaphor.