Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy eating- Does it translate into healthy eating?

Eating food regularly is supposed to be helping human beings to get the required energy and other nutrients in sufficient quantities to live comfortably and healthy too. Sadly the tendency to satisfy the palate and ignoring the health aspects have taken the society to a new height of ill health and lower quality of life. Food is addictive and components like fat, sugar and salt present in foods in quantities more than that is needed by the body make them all the more addictive. Such addiction is hard to overcome in spite of determined efforts by many people who realize the dangers of highly satisfying foods that come under the banner of "junk foods". Why is that human beings are not able to shake off such self destructive behavior? According to some behavioral scientists this phenomenon is almost like the one encountered with smoking and imbibing intoxicating substances including alcoholic drinks. If a recent report on junk food eating habits is any reckoner, people are unable to resist the temptation of eating junk foods because of the sense of positive feelings associated with such foods, invariably rich in fat, sugar or salt. Read further below to understand the reasoning behind such a logic, expounded by some scientists in the US.    

"Most people tend to automatically associate junk food with positive feelings, scientists say. Researchers found that overcoming the temptation to eat unhealthy snack foods is thwarted by the positive thoughts many of us associate with junk food. Despite having the motivation to do so, many individuals struggle to successfully minimise their consumption of unhealthy snack foods, said co-author Ashleigh Haynes, a PhD student in applied cognitive psychology at Flinders University. "Unfortunately, they're the (foods) we tend to find most attractive and enjoyable to eat," she said. Most people tend to automatically associate unhealthy snack foods with positive feelings and concepts, said Haynes, adding this may have roots in evolution and our life experiences, 'ABC News' reported. "The aim of this recent study was to investigate how our automatic evaluation of food (as positive or negative), and the experience of temptation, interact to influence unhealthy snack consumption," said Haynes. She and colleagues presented 192 people with four unhealthy junk foods and then got them to rate how much they felt tempted by them on a scale of 1 to 7. The researchers then got the participants to associate the foods with positive and negative words to assess their 'implicit evaluation' of the foods. Finally, they measured how much of the foods the participants ate in a 10 minute period. "The more negative implicit evaluation of food, the less tempted people felt and the less of the food they ate," said Haynes. Haynes said there is evidence that it is possible to re-train the associations the brain makes with junk food. "Instead of associating unhealthy foods with positive concepts, we can associate them with more negative concepts in an attempt to reduce the strength of temptation experienced and therefore more successfully minimise snack food consumption," she said".

Probably it is a subjective thing to say about "positive feelings" generated by the very mention of some of the highly evocative foods loaded with rich ingredients that can make the mouth water! Sure these feelings originating in the brain must be measurable and whether "tuning" the brain not to respond to such environment can show a way out to assert one's "will power" to overcome the temptations needs to be explored. But how this can be done is a question that does not have an answer right now. No wonder that some sociologists and human psychologists have been campaigning for creating an environment around the human settlements where getting access to junk foods becomes more and more a logistical hindrance. Using brutish power by the governments to ban making of junk foods may not be universally acceptable, especially in a democratic society and education and awareness creation is a long drawn process. Uncontrolled growth of obese population in some parts of the world is a matter of great concern and this problem really needs urgent solution through whatever means possible.


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