Rome, May 3: When pleasure motivates eating, rather than hunger, it activates chemical signals which can cause overeating and fuel obesity, says a new study.
“‘Hedonic hunger’ refers to the desire to eat for pleasure, and to enjoy the taste, rather than to restore the body’s energy needs,” said Palmiero Monteleone, University of Naples SUN, Italy, who led the study.
“For example, desiring and eating a piece of cake even after a satiating meal is consumption driven by pleasure and not by energy deprivation,” said Monteleone, the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reported.
“The physiological process underlying hedonic eating is not fully understood, but it is likely that endogenous substances (hormone or neurotransmitter produced naturally in the body), regulating reward mechanisms like the hormone ghrelin and chemical compounds such as 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are involved,” said Monteleone.
Researchers assessed satiated healthy adults, aged 21 years, feeding them each their personal food and later, a less-palatable food of equal caloric and nutrient value, said a university statement.
They periodically measured 2-AG and ghrelin levels. The plasma levels (concentration in blood) of ghrelin and 2-AG increased during hedonic eating, with the favourite foods, but not with non-hedonic eating.
This increase suggests an activation of the chemical reward system, which overrides the body’s signal that enough has been eaten to restore energy.
“Hedonic hunger may powerfully stimulate overeating in an environment where highly palatable foods are omnipresent, and contribute to the surge in obesity,” concluded Monteleone.