Thinking Your Way to Healthier Choices

Avoid obesity by thinking and eating healthy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) What are you eating for dinner tonight? It’s not life-threatening, but it’s still hard to decide. With so many choices, and so many factors to consider around health, what can you do?

Eating healthy can be difficult at times, but deciding to be healthy couldn’t be easier. A new study suggests that people should simply shift their attention to being healthy and inevitably they will choose healthier foods.

"Just think about being healthy and your brain may do the rest."

Todd Hare, Ph.D., an assistant professor of neuroeconomics at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and former postdoctoral student at Caltech, and colleagues studied the brain’s reaction to thinking and eating healthy.

The researchers found there are two parts of the brain that function when decisions are made. An area in the prefrontal cortex works the same for any individual who needs to make a decision. The other part only functions when a person is using self-control or in this case, thinking about being healthy.

The study included 33 adults who were not on specific diets or trying to lose weight. Participants were asked to look at 180 different foods through video goggles and rate tastiness and healthfulness.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity while participants were viewing and deciding on different foods.

The researchers found no difference in food choices between the tastiness and neutral (not thinking about healthfulness) portion of the experiment.

After directing their attention to being healthy by showing a five second message asking participants to consider healthfulness, the fMRI showed more activity in the self-control region of the brain when participants were asked to rate and select healthy foods.

Participants were more likely to decline foods after thinking about being healthy than when they weren’t. The researchers also found that participants were less likely to choose unhealthy foods regardless of tastiness.

This study does not only apply to healthy eating; this can potentially work for all healthy habits including smoking, Dr. Hare says.

So start thinking healthy already!

The research is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 1, 2011
Last Updated:
August 3, 2011