Publishing their findings in the online journal Health Psychology, researchers at Yale University focused on ghrelin levels in the body to determine how thoughts affect the body's response to food.
Ghrelin is also known as the "hunger" hormone. It sends a signal to your brain that makes you want to eat. If your body's ghrelin levels are high, you'll tend to overeat... even if you are already feeling full. Likewise, low ghrelin levels are associated with feelings of satiety and not needing to eat more. Typically, ghrelin levels increase before meals and decrease after eating.
The researchers recruited volunteers and divided them into two groups:
Group 1 - received a milkshake that they were told was a 620-calorie "indulgent" shake.
Group 2 - received a milkshake that they were told was a 140-calorie "sensible" shake.
In reality, both groups got the same exact shake, which came in at 380 calories.
The result? The test group volunteers convinced they had received the decadent, fattier shake had a notable decline in ghrelin levels. Whereas; the group that believed they consumed the healthier alternative showed a neutral ghrelin response.
“This study shows that mindset can affect feelings of physical satiety. The brain was tricked into either feeling full or feeling unsatisfied. That feeling depended on what people believed they were consuming, rather than what they actually were consuming,” said Alia J. Crum, the study’s lead author.
“What was most interesting,” Crum added, “is that the results were somewhat counterintuitive. Consuming the shake thinking it was ‘indulgent’ was healthier than thinking it was ‘sensible.’ It led to a sharper reduction in ghrelin.”
Pretty amazing, right!?
The mere perception of what you're eating has a direct effect on your body. How's that for "food for thought?"
Now, the downside is that you can’t just drink a 600+ calorie shake and “think” it into being a healthy food choice. You must stop eating poor quality, low nutrient foods in favor of better alternatives. However, for your next meal, try this little experiment for yourself. See if you can get yourself to change the perception of what you're eating...
Imagine the possibilities... indulgent chicken salads... hearty protein shakes... and exquisite veggies.
Well, that's all for today. Keep up those good eating and exercise habits... and make sure to use this neat little Jedi "mind trick" this holiday season.
Oh, and a BIG happy early Thanksgiving to you!
John Aaron Villarreal
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 Crum, Alia J.; Corbin, William R.; Brownell, Kelly D.; Salovey, Peter, “Mind over milkshakes: Mindsets, not just nutrients, determine ghrelin response.” Health Psychology, May 16, 2011