A researcher team led by the University of Naples
have discovered that certain types of chemical impulse, termed "rewarding chemical signals", can be activated when people eat for pleasure rather than hunger. Scientists call this process "hedonic eating", as reported by Health Today
Specifically, it is thought that endogenous substances regulating reward mechanisms like the hormone ghrelin and chemical compounds such as 2-arachidonoylglycerol are involved, thus overriding the body's signals that enough food has been consumed to restore energy. In other words, a kind of chemical reward system is at play which overrides the body's signal that it has consumed sufficient energy.
This findings came from a research study published in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. In the long-term experiment, as Food USA
summarizes, eight satiated healthy adults, aged 21-33 years, were assessed. Each adult was fed each of their personal favorite food and, later, a less-palatable food of equal caloric and nutrient value
Lead author Dr Palmiero Monteleone, of the University of Naples, is quoted by Science Daily
as saying: " Hedonic hunger may powerfully stimulate overeating in an environment where highly palatable foods are omnipresent, and contribute to the surge in obesity."
He went on further to say:
"Understanding the physiological mechanisms underlying this eating behaviour may shed some light on the obesity epidemic. Further research should confirm and extend our results to patients with obesity or with other eating disorders in order to better understand the phenomenon of hedonic eating."
This process may play a key role in overeating and the development of obesity
, which is a growing health concern in many developed nations.
The research paper
P. Monteleone et al. Eating Is Associated with Increased Peripheral Levels of Ghrelin and the Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoyl-Glycerol in Healthy Humans: A Pilot Study. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2012