How Your Food Choices Are Influenced by Outside Factors

Following a healthy diet can be hard. From deciding when and what to eat to how much food you actually put on your plate, the average person makes over 200 food-related decisions each day, most of which are automatic. These automatic choices – dubbed “mindless eating” by some experts – happen when we eat and drink without consciously considering what kind of or how much food to consume. We’ll keep eating from a bowl of chips past the point of fullness simply because they’re in front of us.

Source: Hungry? Food choices are often influenced by forces out of your control

One thing something we need to stress on is that the companies that makes junk food and fast food, their main concern is to market their products and less care about your health being.

At the end of the day, they need to make a profit and sales and so they spent a huge amount of money on marketing and advertisement. It is very hard for an average person who cannot resists the junk/fast food when they are cheaper, readily available and the ads are attractive.

I see it is our own individual responsibility to make sure that what I am putting in my mouth is not junk.

Liver hormone may be the off-switch for sweet-tooth, cocktail cravings

Gimmicky diets, flavor fakery, and sham sweets all try to bamboozle the brain out of wanting sugary treats and calorie-packed happy hour drinks. But scientists may have found an all-natural way to simply switch off those corrupting cravings.

Source: Liver hormone may be the off-switch for sweet-tooth, cocktail cravings

I am always nervous about hormone treatments, as we usually do not know all the side effects of the hormone treatments, as the body is a series of complex chemical interactions driven in part by hormones.  I am even more nervous about chemical treatments than hormone treatments, as they are not usually natural to the body and can throw things out of whack leaving the body no natural way to overcome the chemical imbalance.  So I am cautiously optimistic that this is a better treatment path than existing medicines, as the hormone occurs naturally in the body, appears to be directly involved in doing what they want it to do already, and hopefully the body has some built in methods to handle additional amounts of the hormone with fewer serious side effects.

New Hypothesis on Depression

The discovery of antidepressant drugs led to the first biochemical hypothesis of depression, known as the monoamine hypothesis. However, this hypothesis does not seem to fully explain the complexity of human depression. Now a new study offers one more important key that may increase our understanding of the pathogenesis behind clinical depression and neurodegenerative disorders.

Source: Sequestered prion protein takes the good mood away, suggests new hypothesis on depression

With new (possibly proper) understanding, comes better treatment.

Common Medications Sway Moral Judgment

How many times would you give your neighbor an electric shock to earn a few extra bucks? Your answer could be more malleable than you think. A new study finds that two common drugs—an antidepressant and a treatment for Parkinson’s disease—can influence moral decisions, a discovery that could help unravel specific mechanisms behind aggression and eventually help researchers design treatments for antisocial behavior.

Source: Common Medications Sway Moral Judgment

Did anyone seriously doubt that psychoactive drugs can and do affect just about all decision-making processes?

Yes, Oxytocin Makes You More Trusting and Generous. So Does Booze.

“The Moral Molecule.” “The Cuddle Hormone.” If you’ve been paying attention the past few years, you’ve heard about many of the near-magical effects of the hormone oxytocin on the brain. It makes people more altruistic. It reduces anxiety and increases trust. But it’s not the only chemical that affects the brain that way.

Source: Yes, Oxytocin Makes You More Trusting and Generous. So Does Booze.

Fairly similar.  One day, we’ll actually understand what’s actually happening.

Why Are You Nearsighted? Here’s An Explanation You May Not Have Heard.

The southern city of Guangzhou has long held the largest eye hospital in China. But about five years ago, it became clear that the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center needed to expand.

More and more children were arriving with the blurry distance vision caused by myopia, and with so many needing eye tests and glasses, the hospital was bursting at the seams. So the centre began adding new testing rooms — and to make space, it relocated some of its doctors and researchers to a local shopping mall. Now during the summer and winter school holidays, when most diagnoses are made, “thousands and thousands of children” pour in every day, says ophthalmologist Nathan Congdon, who was one of those uprooted. “You literally can’t walk through the halls because of all the children.”

East Asia has been gripped by an unprecedented rise in myopia, also known as short-sightedness. Sixty years ago, 10–20% of the Chinese population was short-sighted. Today, up to 90% of teenagers and young adults are. In Seoul, a whopping 96.5% of 19-year-old men are short-sighted.

Source: The myopia boom

This isn’t the first I’d heard about the hypothesis – the first time indicated that being outdoors was a preventative measure.  But only if the horizon was a significant distance away and could be seen; according to them, it was all about spending time focusing on objects a great distance away as well as closer objects. IE: being outdoors in a dense urban environment where you were closely surrounded by buildings that blocked far distance views didn’t help.  To put it another way, how many farmers do you know who are near-sighted?

The article/hypothesis picks on books, but tablets/etc are no better.  Maybe my folks were right about sitting too close to the TV?  Nah… 😛

Avoid Emotional Eating with the Broccoli Test

The #1 reason why people are overweight is because…drum roll please …we’re eating when we’re emotionally hungry.* Not when we’re physically hungry.

*This is based on hundreds of new client questionnaires I’ve reviewed in the last 8 years since starting MyBodyTutor along with subsequent conversations.

Physical hunger is a gradual sensation that we feel in our stomach, and any food seems appealing. We usually feel good after eating.

Most people eat when they’re emotionally hungry though.

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly and we’ll crave specific foods. With emotional hunger we can have snack after snack and nothing hits the spot. We often feel guilty after emotional eating.

Source: The Broccoli Test: How to Stop Emotional Eating

There’s a reason that “comfort food” exists. When you’re stressed, your brain seeks ways to alleviate stress by eating certain foods, resulting in unwanted calories. If this weren’t bad enough, the act of self-medicating with comfort food also increases your body’s propensity to store abdominal fat, leading to greater risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

What if I like broccoli?

Doesn’t have to be broccoli, eating plain celery is like chewing on grass. Or at least I’d assume so.  Mindfulness has been covered in the past.

What the article doesn’t mention is that you can fall back into the habit very easily.  Even once in a while I catch myself.

There’s A Lot More To Violent Behavior Than Just Two Mutated Genes

A genetic analysis of almost 900 offenders in Finland has revealed two genes associated with violent crime.

Those with the genes were 13 times more likely to have a history of repeated violent behaviour.

The authors of the study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, said at least 5-10% of all violent crime in Finland could be attributed to individuals with these genotypes.

But they stressed the genes could not be used to screen criminals.

Source: Two genes linked with violent crime

Without degenerating into eugenics, remember that genes do not determine high-level behaviour, and as a consequence stop conflating hot temper and criminality. If there is a genetic disposition that makes it more likely a person will possess a violent inclination (and the evidence presented in this article is sparse, to say the least) this does not mean he or she is more likely to commit crime. Crime is a complex social construct and dependent on multiple external, non-genetic influences such as upbringing and economic background. We shouldn’t resort to discrimination based on a massively flawed view of genetics.  Other genes may be responsible for violent behavior, and despite screening for environmental factors, it’s a safe bet that social and economic factors play a non-trivial role in facilitating violent behavior.  There are also no simple genetic causes for most of the big mental disorders like depression, schizophrenia, etc.

Price of Medication Impacts Efficacy

Just like the old Gypsy woman said!  Kidding – just like the buffet

In a recent study, an “expensive” salt solution was shown to to be significantly more effective at managing the symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s disease than an “inexpensive” one. The salt solutions were identical placebos.

Source: For Patients with Parkinson’s Disease, Expensive Placebo Works Better

Placebo effects mostly operate on highly subjective symptoms like pain, nausea, mental performance (i.e. coordination, mental acuity, alertness, mood etc). It also has some effect in temporarily boosting immunity, as it has long been determined that stress influences it. And when the patients have been told that they are on placebos, the effect rapidly reverses.

Also, there is the fact that only 30% of the population is susceptible to placebo effects. And the effectiveness of placebos are highly overblown in the lay literature.

Why We Love the Pain of Spicy Food

…the chili sensation isn’t just warm: It hurts! It is a form of pain and irritation. There’s no obvious biological reason why humans should tolerate it, let alone seek it out and enjoy it. For centuries, humans have eagerly consumed capsaicin—the molecule that generates the heat sensation—even though nature seems to have created it to repel us.

Like our affection for a hint of bitterness in cuisine, our love of spicy heat is the result of conditioning. The chili sensation mimics that of physical heat, which has been a constant element of flavor since the invention of the cooking fire: We have evolved to like hot food. The chili sensation also resembles that of cold, which is unpleasant to the skin but pleasurable in drinks and ice cream, probably because we have developed an association between cooling off and the slaking of thirst. But there’s more to it than that.

Source: Why We Love the Pain of Spicy Food

There is the argument that eating spicy food is beneficial in hotter climates (closer you get to the equator) because it provokes sweating, cooling you off. Which makes sense that the rats in the studies would not take to consuming spicy food – rats, like dogs, do not sweat.

Spices, not just spicy ones, had been used for  preservation (including bacteria killing) before refrigeration became possible.