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Food Cues & Obesity: Does Your Brain Influence What You Eat?

Summary: What is a food cue, and what happens in your brain when you see one?
Air Date: 11/20/15
Duration: 10
Host: Leigh Vinocur, MD
Guest Bio: Susan Carnell, PhD
Carnell JH Susan Carnell received her BA in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford and completed her PhD on parental feeding style and children's eating behavior at University College London. She was then awarded an ESRC/MRC Interdisciplinary Post-doctoral Research Fellowship, in which she used behavioral and genetic data from a nationwide study of twin children to examine genetic and environmental influences on appetite and obesity.

In 2007, Dr. Carnell moved to the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center where she developed an interest in neuroendocrine influences on eating behavior and weight. Here she spearheaded two projects examining brain and gut hormone responses to stress and food cues in obese and lean adults with and without Binge Eating Disorder, and was awarded a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence award from NIDDK to investigate fMRI responses to food cues in obese and lean adolescents at high and low familial/genetic risk of obesity.

In 2013 she joined the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she is an Assistant Professor. Her current research interests include neuroimaging studies of appetite and obesity, and genetic and environmental influences on children''s eating behavior.
Food Cues & Obesity: Does Your Brain Influence What You Eat?
Obesity is a very serious disease that can cause health issues like heart disease and diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third (78.6 million) of people in the U.S. are obese.

Two studies have recently given insight to your brain, how it responds to food cues, and why that matters in obesity.

In the first study, researchers performed an fMRI on 12 lean and 17 obese participants, showing words representing high-energy dense foods (chicken wings, lemon cheesecake) and low-energy dense foods (red-leaf lettuce or summer squash).

Researchers then asked the participants to rate how much they wanted to eat each food item. They found that the brains of the obese participants had a stronger reaction to the high-energy dense food than the lean participants.

What did the other study suggest about food cues and obesity?

Listen in as Susan Carnell, PhD, shares the recent findings of the two studies and how food cues relate to obesity.