Friday, December 26, 2014
With the festive season around, diet resolutions are quickly forgotten. However, American scientists provide a solution to stick to healthy eating and maintaining a healthy weight. Their study found that dietary self-control may depend on how fast the brain decides whether a food is healthy or not.
The results of the study were published in the journal Psychological Science. The researchers set out with a hypothesis that people primarily make their food choices based on taste, while the healthiness of food takes a back seat in the decision-making process.
The researchers recruited 28 volunteers who were fasting for 4 hours to individually rate 160 foods on a scale from -2 to 2. They were asked to rate the foods by their healthiness, tastiness and how much they wanted to eat each food at the end of the study. The researchers then randomly paired 280 of the same foods. Participants viewed them on a computer screen and were asked to use a computer mouse to click on their preferred food in each pair. The researchers used novel mouse tracking and statistical technology, to assess the time taken by a participant, on a scale of milliseconds, to make a food choice based on either tastiness or healthiness.
The researchers found that the taste of a food influenced participants' food choices 195 milliseconds earlier than the health aspect. They found that 32% of participants did not make any food choices based on health information. Next, the participants were split into 2 groups – those selecting healthy foods indicating high self control, and those selecting unhealthy foods suggesting low self control.
They found that participants with high self control considered the health information of a food 323 milliseconds earlier than those with low self-control. Thus, the quicker an individual considers a food's health benefits, the more likely they are to choose a healthy food.
This research opens up the possibility of bringing about changes in food labelling. The researchers suggest making the calorie content of a product more visible to influence early decision-making by an individual. Quick thinking in this case can be a healthy choice!
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