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Can Exercise Actually Change the way your Brain Responds to Food?

Tempted? If you hit the gym today the answer may be no…

Most dieters know that weight loss is a lot about what you eat and less about how much you exercise – although those who exercise are much more likely to hold onto muscle while dieting, less likely to see a drop in their metabolism and much more likely to maintain their lost weight.


But a new study shows that exercise may have a lot more to do with our relationship with food than we once thought and the results are surprising!

Previous studies have shown that immediately after exercise, circulating levels of appetite hormones are reduced leading to less hunger and less food intake. However in a study released this week, exercise was shown also to result in reduced brain response (as measured by brain MRI) to high-calorie foods.

Participants were divided into those who exercised vs those who did not,  and those who have high levels of sedentary activity like sitting behind a desk or watching TV.

Subjects were shown high calorie foods while brain images were captured on MRI.  Exercisers were less likely to show a brain signal (or respond) to food cues as compared to sedentary individuals.

In fact, for every additional 30 minutes of exercise per week, there was an additionally reduced brain signal or response to high-calorie foods.

On the contrary, people who had a greater level of sedentary had a greater response to food cues -as captured by MRI.

Take home message- increasing your physical activity and reducing time spent in sedentary activities like sitting behind your desk and watching TV may reduce your brain’s response and interest in high calorie, not so good for you foods!

Dr. Adrienne Youdim

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