If you want to lose weight, the best idea is to have your friends over. Why will this make you eat less? Not because they will eat all your food, but because of your brain is more preoccupied with social interaction than the craving for food.
A scientific study on mice suggests that their brain (which works similar to ours) has a part which is processing social engagement but is also in control of food cravings.
In their tests, scientists stimulated the social brain cells of the mice, and they showed that consuming high-calorie treats were no longer an interest. When mice had other animals visiting and socializing with them, the treat was no longer interesting.
How to Avoid Overeating?
The senior author of the study, Dr. Karl Deisseroth, explains that the findings can be translated to human behavior:
“We know social situations can inhibit the urge to eat. One example is the behaviour of people at different levels of dominance in a social hierarchy. You’re not going to dive into that plate of ribs when you’re dining in the presence of royalty.”
The part of the brain that controls social behavior and the urge to seek, crave or eat food is the orbitofrontal cortex. The food and social circuits could activate at the same time, and they would restrain each other.
To test the theory, scientists injected the mice with a light-sensitive protein to light the brain cells with pulses of laser light. They used the laser to trigger the brain cells that made them want to feed – the mice went to drink from a high-calorie liquid. When triggering the social brain cells, the mice didn’t seem interested in the treat but went to socialize with mice that were introduced in the environment.
Overeating can be avoided when the brain is focused on a social activity. However, in cases of anorexia, the social pressure could lead to under-eating, added Dr. Deisseroth.
However, the study will not end here. Dr. Deisseroth explains that they must find the neurons that lead to eating behavior. If they find the difference, it could “even lead to pharmaceutical interventions that reduce social inhibition of food consumption among people with anorexia,” he concluded.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.