It’s one of the saddest pieces of research to come out of the obesity crisis: Most would assume that people with weight problems get a lot of satisfaction and pleasure from eating, but a new study seems to show that the converse is actually true: The obese don’t appear to get as much pleasure as they expect from food.
University of Oregon researchers hooked 77 young women up to brain scanners and had them drink chocolate milkshakes. The brains of the women who were obese showed two differences from those of normal-weight women: When shown the milkshake, their “reward circuitry” showed more response, but when drinking the milkshake, their pleasure center showed less response. Which means there was a big gap in the amount of pleasure they thought they would get and the amount they actually got.
This makes perfect sense. It seems natural to salivate over something that looks delicious. But after finding that it tastes disappointing, you would want to search out something that might be more satisfying. If your brain responses reinforce that pattern, it could lead to consuming a lot of extra calories.