LAB REPORT

Fat people's brains hard-wired to crave food; too much TV could be fatal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 September, 2015, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 September, 2015, 9:00pm

Beware the dangers of the small screen

Prolonged television watching may lead to a higher risk of fatal pulmonary embolism, a condition associated with long-haul flights, reveals research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in London last week. The 18-year study by Japan's Osaka University involved more than 86,000 men and women aged 40 to 79 years. It found that watching an average of five or more hours of television per day was associated with twice the risk of fatal pulmonary embolism as watching less than 2½ hours daily. Pulmonary embolism is a serious, sometimes fatal, lung-related vascular disease characterised by sudden onset of symptoms such as chest pain or difficulty breathing. "Leg immobility during television viewing may in part explain the finding," says Toru Shirakawa, a public health research fellow at Osaka University. "To prevent the occurrence of pulmonary embolism … take a break, stand up, and walk around during television viewing. Drinking water for preventing dehydration is also important."

Study shows food may be addictive

The tendency to want food may be "hard-wired" into the brain of overweight patients, finds a new study. A research team from Spain's University of Granada and Australia's Monash University gave buffet-style food to 39 obese and 42 normal-weight individuals. Later, the subjects were put into functional MRI brain scanners and shown photographs of the food to stimulate food craving. In obese individuals, the stimulus from food craving was associated with a greater connectivity between the dorsal caudate and the somatosensory cortex, implicated in reward-based habits and the coding of the energetic value of foods, respectively. With normal weight individuals, food craving was associated with a greater connectivity between different parts of the brain: the ventral putamen and the orbitofrontal cortex. Three months later, the subjects' body mass index was measured and it was found that 11 per cent of the weight gain in the obese individuals could be predicted by the presence of the increased connectivity between the dorsal caudate and the somatosensory cortex areas of the brain.

Why peer pressure could be good for you

Teens are often warned to beware the undue influence of peer pressure, but new research in the journal Psychological Science shows that physical health in adulthood could be predicted based on the quality of close friendships in adolescence. Efforts to conform to peer norms were actually linked to higher quality health in adulthood. Researchers recruited a diverse group of 171 seventh- and eighth-graders and followed them from the age of 13 through to 27 years old. From the age of 13 to 17, their best friends filled out questionnaires assessing the quality of their friendship. Friends also provided information about how much participants' focused on fitting in with their peers. Participants' health quality was then assessed annually at ages 25, 26 and 27 years old. Results indicated that both high-quality close friendships and a drive to fit in with peers in adolescence were associated with better health at age 27. The findings suggest that "following the herd" and having close, supportive relationships in adolescence would lower the risk of having stress- and anxiety-related health problems in adulthood.