Exercise Can Reduce Your Cravings for Junk Food: Study

Researchers during a recent study found that rats on a 30-day diet who exercised intensely resisted cues for favored high-fat food pellets. The study highlights that people who exercise regularly can resist craving for junk foods. The findings of the research were published in the journal ‘Obesity’ by physiology and neuroscience researcher Travis Brown and colleagues from Washington State University and Wyoming State University.

According to Travis Brown, the experiment was designed to test resistance to the phenomenon known as ‘incubation of craving’. And the findings suggest that exercise modulated how hard the rats were willing to work for cues associated with the pellets, reflecting how much they craved them. Travis said while more research is necessary, the study may indicate that exercise can shore up restraint pertaining to certain foods.

Travis said, “Exercises could not only be beneficial physically for weight loss but also mentally to gain control over cravings for unhealthy foods.” Coming back to the experiment done by Travis with his colleagues, the researchers put 28 rats through training with a level that when pressed, turn on a light and make a tone before dispensing a high-fat pellet. After the training period, Travis and his colleagues tested to see how many times the rats would press the lever to get the light and tone cue.

Travel and her colleagues then split the rats into two groups:

One underwent a regime of high-intensity treadmill running and the other had no additional exercise outside of their regular activity. To note, both sets of rats were denied access to the high-fat pellets for 30 days.

At the end of that period, they gave the rats access to the levers that once dispensed the pellets again, but this time when the levers were pressed, the researchers only gave the light and tone cue. And the animals that did not get exercise lessened the craving for the pellets.

The research team in further studies plans to investigate the effect of different levels of exercise on this type of craving. Also, how exactly do exercises work in the brain to curb the desire for unhealthy foods?

While this study is novel, Travis said it built on the work of Jef Grimm at Western Washington University. Grimm led the team that first defined the term ‘incubation of craving” and has studied other ways to subvert it. Also, Travis credited Marilyn Carroll-Santi’s research at the University of Minnesota showing that exercise can blunt cravings for cocaine.

Travis concludes: “Exercise is beneficial from several perspectives. It helps in cardiac disease, obesity, and diabetes. Also, it might help with the ability to avoid some of these maladaptive foods.”

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