A team of European scientists is working on developing ‘smart foods‘ that could signal to the brain when you’ve had enough to eat. These foods would be fortified with substances that mimic our bodies’ hunger-regulating hormones.
Whether that’s terrifying or exciting is a matter of perspective, I suppose. Either way, no need to get worked up yet: These smart foods are still entirely hypothetical. But their development could be imminent, thanks to a major European initiative called Full4Health.
Full4Health aims to understand the “food-gut-brain” mechanisms that regulate our feelings of hunger and satiety–as well as how to manipulate these mechanisms. The project brings together academic and industry researchers from across Europe, including a group called the EurOCHIP FP7 Consortium.
“Few would dispute that the obesity epidemic has been driven by lifestyle and environmental changes,” write the EurOCHIP team. But “the wholesale change of our environment to that of 50 years ago in an attempt to combat obesity is likely to be difficult to achieve.”
That’s why the group is looking at other strategies–such as smart foods and manipulating hunger hormones–to combat our modern “obesigenic” environment. Because if you can’t beat it … trick it? Or trick the brains of those who most need it, I guess I should say.
When this day comes, I’m sure some people will sneer about the necessity of such tricks: Can’t fat people just take personal responsibility? Can’t they just diet and exercise?
Uh, maybe not. Previous research has shown that the brains of overweight and obese people often differ from those of the non-obese in regions linked to reward-processing and regulating hunger. And a study published last year in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that pictures of junk food elicited different responses in the brains of obese and non-obese individuals, with obese subjects showing decreased activity in the part of the brain associated with impulse control.