The study seems to suggest that hard work can even enhance our appreciation for fare we might not favor, such as the low-fat, low calorie variety. At least in theory, this means that if we had to navigate an obstacle course to get to a plate of baby carrots, we might come to prefer those crunchy crudités over the sweet, gooey Snickers bars or Peanut M&Ms more easily accessible via the office vending machine.
"Basically, what we have shown is that if you have to expend more effort to get a certain food, not only will you value that food more, but it might even taste better to you," explained Alexander Johnson, an associate research scientist in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins. "At present, we don't know why effort seems to boost the taste of food, but we know that it does, and this effect lasts for at least 24 hours after the act of working hard to get the food."
The study, titled "Greater effort boosts the affective taste properties of food," appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The study results are significant not only because they hold out hope that people who struggle to maintain a healthy weight could be conditioned to consume lower calorie foods, but because they also might provide insight into methods of altering other less-than-optimal behavior, according to Johnson, who led the study.
Johnson teamed up on the project with Michela Gallagher, the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Neuroscience and vice provost for academic affairs at Johns Hopkins. Using ordinary laboratory mice, the team conducted two experiments.
In the first, mice were trained to respond to two levers. If the mice pressed one lever once, they were rewarded with a sugary treat. Another lever had to be pressed 15 times to deliver a similar snack. Later, when given free access to both tidbits, the rodents clearly preferred "the food that they worked harder for," Johnson said.
In the second experiment, the team wanted to ascertain whether the animals' preference for the harder-to-obtain food would hold if those morsels were low-calorie. So half the mice received lower calorie goodies from a high-effort lever, and half got them from a low-effort lever. When both groups of mice were given free access to the low-calorie food later, those who had used the high-effort lever ate more of it and even seemed to enjoy it more than did the other group.
"We then analyzed the way in which the mice consumed the food," Johnson explained. "Why did we do this? Because food intake can be driven by a variety of factors, including how it tastes, how hungry the mice were beforehand, and how 'sated' or full the food made them feel."
Johnson and Gallagher used licking behavior as a measure of the rodents' enjoyment of their treats, and found that the mice that had to work harder for their low-cal rewards did, in fact, savor them more.
"Our basic conclusion is that under these conditions, having to work harder to get a certain food changes how much that food is valued, and it does that by changing how good that food tastes," Johnson said. "This suggests that, down the road, obese individuals might be able to alter their eating habits so as to prefer healthier, low calorie food by manipulating the amount of work required to obtain the food. Of course, our study didn't delve into that aspect. But the implications certainly are there."
The study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Copies of the study are available from Lisa De Nike at Lde@jhu.edu or 443-287-9960.
Lisa DeNike | EurekAlert!
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.09.2017 | Trade Fair News
25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy