Can you build up tolerance to delicious foods?

Why the second serving of ice cream never tastes as good as the first.

New research suggests that those individuals who frequently eat a given highly palatable food derive less satisfaction from the subsequent consumption of that same food – namely, ice cream.

In the study, just published online at the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers assessed the frequency with which the adolescent study participants ate specific types of foods, including ice cream, chocolate, and many others.

Next, each participant was fed (via a syringe) either an ice-cream milkshake or a tasteless solution while the activity of their brain was surveyed via functional MRI. The researchers were looking to see if the brain regions previously associated with food reward were activated in response to the tasty shake.

The major finding of this study was an inverse relationship between the frequency of ice cream consumption and the activation of the brain’s reward centers in response to ingesting an ice cream milk shake.

Oddly enough, this relationship was not attenuated when chocolate candy or cookie consumption was considered simultaneously, suggesting a very specific effect of eating ice cream on subsequent enjoyment of eating ice cream.

In a sense, the observation is similar to the developed drug tolerance seen among drug addicts, where the high of the second hit is never as good as the first.

Extending this analogy, much like drug users have to up their does to reach the same high, the authors argue that the reduced activation of the brain’s reward circuitry in response to repeated ingestion of a particular palatable food may lead to overconsumption of that food to achieve the desired level of satisfaction.

How can you put this research into action?

If you want to get the most satisfaction out of your treats – whether they be ice cream, cookies, or pretzels – make sure they are just that: treats that you only consume on rare occasions.

And in case you were wondering, the milkshake used for testing in this study contained 60 g of vanilla Haagen-Daz ice cream, 80 mL 2% milk, and 15 mL Hershey’s chocolate syrup.


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KS Burger and E Stice. Frequent ice cream consumption is associated with reduced striatal
response to receipt of an ice cream–based milkshake. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.027003.

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This entry was posted in News, nutrition, Obesity Research, Peer Reviewed Research. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Can you build up tolerance to delicious foods?

  1. Pingback: Histamine Key To Food Tolerance Cure | Histamine Intolerance

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  3. Michelle says:

    I find it a little troubling that we instantly jump to the drug addiction analogy.

    Could this effect not also be interpreted as a way of driving humans to consume a wider variety of foods through diminishing returns? I think so.

  4. Janis says:

    This might be true, but how do you may it helpful? Obviously, processed coca leaves and processed fats both turn a natural, normal, harmlessly appealing substance into something that an addict might flush their health down the toilet to get, so I’m accepting the addiction metaphor, definitely. But … does this observation have a practical application? How do we use this factoid to help people out,and not help them to get the most satisfaction out of a treat, but to stop bingeing on it?

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  7. Edgar Manhattan says:

    The above pattern definitely describes my experience with cocaine (the first sniff was lovely for 20 minutes, then I couldn’t get that sensation again unless I waited a week before using it again) which is why I haven’t bothered with cocaine for the last few decades. The return of pleasure is pretty slim.

    However, the above pattern does NOT describe my experience with Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby or Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream. I find that the last spoonful in a pint tastes every bit as delicious as the first: I rarely eat either, but when I do, it’s a pint or nothing.

    This study was done on adolescents, and we all know that adolescent brains are not yet mature. While I work to moderate my intake of delicious treats, I do that for other reasons, not because the last cookie in the bag isn’t as satisfying to me as the first. Perhaps I am non-average, perhaps I have a more mature brain, but I certainly don’t fit in with the studied adolescent population.

    I think this well-intentioned post ends with unjustified over-generalizing about the actual observations in a limited study group, and it’s conclusions aren’t justified by the research.

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