Research suggests that those individuals who frequently eat a given highly palatable food derive less satisfaction from the subsequent consumption of that same food, such as ice cream.
In the study, published 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 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.
In short, this study found 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 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.
As I’ve mentioned before, my weakness are salty snacks (chips, pretzels, popcorn, etc.). You may also recall that my wife and I like to travel extensively and for long periods (we spent 2 months in Africa this summer). Since many of our trips take us to places where finding a decent meal is a challenge, there have been times where I have not had access to snacks that would satisfy an intense craving. So I may not be able to find a bag of chips for a month or so. Over the years I’ve noticed that the first chip or prezel I eat after my detox during travel tends to be disproportionately satisfying.
So 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 or rare occasions.
Not only is this strategy probably good for your waistline, but it also allows you to derive the greatest pleasure from indulging in your guilty pleasure.
And in case you were wondering, the milkshake used for testing in this study contained 60 g vanilla Haagen-Daz ice cream, 80 mL 2% milk, and 15 mL Hershey’s chocolate syrup.
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.