None of us can open a magazine, turn on the TV or go to the grocery store without seeing the new ad, book or pill that promises to help us shed a few pounds. Yet, when we go to most restaurants and grocery stores, every other ad seems to be inviting us to try the new fried chicken special, triple stacked burger or mocha latte grande milkshake. So let’s talk seriously: Do the advertisements inviting us to those tasty treats contribute to our nationwide struggle with obesity? Whoa, not me you say! Read on.
The Archives of General Psychiatry did a study where they did performed Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or F-MRI, looking at the brain activity of almost 50 women, some who were thin and some who were overweight. The women were all shown and offered either a chocolate milkshake or a tasteless liquid.
The researchers then looked at which part of the F-MRI lit up after drinking, and they saw that those drinking the milkshake actually triggered a certain part of their brains that is similar to the part that lights up when people show addiction to drugs, alcohol and other substances.
This is intriguing because we now know that these visual cues (like the milkshake) really do trigger people’s urges. In the smoking world, we’ve known for quite a long time that thinking about smoking or watching a movie with someone smoking can trigger that urge. A cue for something pleasurable and tasty triggers urges, much like the ones smokers have, and for people with weight problems, this is a real issue.
It’s hard to fight these cues in a country where the role of advertising and marketing plays such an overwhelming role, but maybe now we better understand the impact advertising may truly have on some people, maybe even us. Perhaps one way to fight this battle is to make sure we are distinguishing cues from actual desires, letting an internal ‘stop’ sign act as filter.
Let us know what you think…