Girl! Put that cookie down!


Girl! Put that cookie down!

Don’t let the craving speak. It hurts your pocket and your health, a new study has shown

Senior reporter

When the craving for chocolate or cheese puffs has spoken, no price-tag will stand in the way of you satisfying your grumbling tummy.
Neuroscience research from  New York University has confirmed that we will pay more for the unhealthy foods we crave and won’t hesitate to fork out more money if it’s bigger portion sizes we desire.Researchers gathered a group of 44 people who hadn’t eaten for four hours and presented them with 15 snacks, including Snickers and granola bars, and a R60 budget.
They found that the participants were willing to pay more for the snacks after seeing them.
The study also showed that people were willing to pay more for high-calorie, fatty and sugary foods – like a chocolate bar or cheese puffs.“It appears that craving boosts or multiplies the economic value of the craved food,” said head researcher Anna Konova.
“Our results indicate that even if people strive to eat healthier, craving could overshadow the importance of health by boosting the value of tempting, unhealthy foods relative to healthier options,” added Konova.The research indicated that craving “may nudge our choices in very specific ways that help us acquire those things that made us feel good in the past – even if those things may not be consistent with our current health goals”.
Researchers were particularly concerned about craving – “which has long been recognised as a state of mind that contributes to addiction”, and, in recent years, to eating disorders and obesity.A University of Washington study last year, revealed that South African women had the highest obesity rate – 42% – in sub-Saharan Africa.
About 14% of men and almost nine percent of South African children are also considered obese, the study showed.
The World Health Organisation recently commended the South African government for taking steps towards promoting healthy lifestyles by introducing a levy on sugary drinks.
Johannesburg psychologist Dr Ingrid Artus said when people condition their brains “to perceive unhealthy foods to be more delicious that healthy foods, we systematically create very strong neural pathways or habits that reinforce this thinking pattern.“Habitually used neural pathways are like driving on a superhighway rather than driving on a dirt road.
“The decision-making is so much easier when we use our default mode since the brain tends to prefer using the most convenient and automated course of action. In addition, sugars and fats tend to be foods that light up the reward system in the brain which means we tend to crave them more as they become part of our diet,” said Artus.

This article is reserved for Sunday Times Daily subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times Daily content.

Sunday Times Daily

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email or call 0860 52 52 00.