Food and Behaviour Research

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Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men

Lennerz BS, Alsop DC, Holsen LM, Stern E, Rojas R, Ebbeling CB, Goldstein JM, Ludwig DS (2013) Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jun 26.   

Abstract:

BACKGROUND:

Qualitative aspects of diet influence eating behavior, but the physiologic mechanisms for these calorie-independent effects remain speculative.

OBJECTIVE:

We examined effects of the glycemic index (GI) on brain activity in the late postprandial period after a typical intermeal interval.

DESIGN:

With the use of a randomized, blinded, crossover design, 12 overweight or obese men aged 18-35 y consumed high- and low-GI meals controlled for calories, macronutrients, and palatability on 2 occasions. The primary outcome was cerebral blood flow as a measure of resting brain activity, which was assessed by using arterial spin-labeling functional magnetic resonance imaging 4 h after test meals. We hypothesized that brain activity would be greater after the high-GI meal in prespecified regions involved in eating behavior, reward, and craving.

RESULTS:

Incremental venous plasma glucose (2-h area under the curve) was 2.4-fold greater after the high- than the low-GI meal (P = 0.0001). Plasma glucose was lower (mean ± SE: 4.7 ± 0.14 compared with 5.3 ± 0.16 mmol/L; P = 0.005) and reported hunger was greater (P = 0.04) 4 h after the high- than the low-GI meal, respectively. At this time, the high-GI meal elicited greater brain activity centered in the right nucleus accumbens (a prespecified area; P = 0.0006 with adjustment for multiple comparisons) that spread to other areas of the right striatum and to the olfactory area.

CONCLUSIONS:

Compared with an isocaloric low-GI meal, a high-GI meal decreased plasma glucose, increased hunger, and selectively stimulated brain regions associated with reward and craving in the late postprandial period, which is a time with special significance to eating behavior at the next meal. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01064778.

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

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