Behavioral and Brain Sciences2013-09-05 2:57 AM

The effect of food Images on mood and arousal depends on dietary histories and the fat and sugar content of foods depicted

Background: While brain imaging studies show that reward regions in the human brain that regulate reward-guided behavior and integrate sensory modalities of smell, taste, and texture respond preferentially to high calorie foods, few studies account for dietary histories or account for recent behavioral evidence showing preferential responding for fruits (a low calorie food that tastes sweet). To address these concerns, the present study tested the hypothesis that images of high/low fat and sugar foods, even sugary foods that are low calorie (i.e., fruits), will enhance emotional responsiveness and that these changes may be related to dietary histories with fat and sugar intake. Method: Participants were shown 4 sets of 15 food images with each food image automatically timed every 9 s to transition to a new food image; participant pre-post mood and arousal was measured. The 4 sets of food images were high fat-high sugar (HFHS; desserts), high fat-low sugar (HFLS; fried foods), low fat-high sugar (LFHS; fruits), or low fat-low sugar (LFLS; vegetables) foods. To account for dietary histories, participants also completed estimated daily intake scales (EDIS) for sugar and fat. Results: Mood and arousal significantly increased in all groups, except Group LFLS, and even in a group that was low calorie but shown foods that taste sweet, i.e., Group LFHS. Interestingly, changes in arousal, but not mood, were dependent on participant histories with sugar and fat intake. Conclusion: Changes in emotional responsiveness to food images were nutrient-specific, which can be a more detailed level of analysis for assessing responsiveness to food images. Also, participant histories with sugar and fat should be taken into account as these histories can explain the changes in arousal observed here.

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Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Behavioral and Brain Sciences is a peer-reviewed scientific journal of Open Peer Commentary established in 1978 by Stevan Harnad and published by Cambridge University Press. It is modeled on the journal Current Anthropology (which was established in 1959 by the University of Chicago anthropologist, Sol Tax).

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