VSL:SCIENCE // A new explanation for obesity

You want some irony with those fries? According to a new paper, one of the reasons obese people keep on eating is that they actually get less pleasure — not more — from the food they eat.

Seventy-six young women were put in a brain scanner and given a sip of a chocolate milkshake. A machine then analyzed the activity in a part of the brain — the striatum — that responds to desserts. Sure enough, women who got less satisfaction from eating were more likely to eat more, in a vain attempt to trigger their pleasure centers.

Next, scientists looked at subtle genetic differences and found that over time, women with a gene that leads to a reduced number of dopamine receptors tended to gain large amounts of weight: Because they never experienced the rush of delight most of us get from a milkshake, they compensated with way too many all-you-can-eat buffets.

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VSL:SCIENCE // A new explanation for obesity