It turns out that even a single session of running can affect appetite
A single session of jogging can cause an increased response to food cues in parts of the brain linked to attention and reward expectation, according to new research that may reveal ways to regulate appetite for weight loss.
Previous research had shown that the amount of food people eat is influenced by brain processes sensitive to changes in the body and the immediate food environment.
Studies have also revealed that one-off exercises, such as running, can temporarily suppress appetite.
Scientists have previously suggested that the way we respond, both physically and psychologically, to the sight or smell of food (also known as food cue reactivity) can affect appetite and ultimately how much we eat.
However, the extent and duration of exercise influencing appetite immediately after training remained unclear.
Researchers, including scientists from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom (UK), examined whether exercise-induced blood flow changes in the brain affect the way people respond to food.
The new study, published in the scientific journal Human Brain Mapping, evaluated the effect of running on blood flow in the brain and how it affects brain activity in relation to appetite.
As part of the study, 23 men underwent fMRI brain scans before and after a 60-minute jog or rest session.
During the scan, participants were asked to look at three types of images, including low-energy-dense foods such as fruit and vegetables, high-energy-dense foods such as chocolate, and non-food items such as furniture.
The scientists found that the extent of the exercise session suppressed the hunger participants felt and expressed.
On the other hand, exercise also increased the response of multiple parts of the participants' brains to food stimuli.
The researchers also detected changes in blood flow in the brain after exercise. However, these changes did not seem to affect response signals to food stimuli.
This suggests that changes in participants' responses to visual food cues are independent of overall changes in blood flow in the brain.
"Our findings confirm that individuals feel less hungry during and immediately after the exercise session, and offer some insight into the short-term impact of exercise on brain appetite responses," said study co-author Alice Thackray.
Research confirms that the brain plays an important role in controlling appetite and food intake.
"This study is a springboard for further work to more precisely and comprehensively define appetite responses to exercise. This will allow us to better understand the role of exercise in preventing and managing unhealthy weight gain," said study co-author David Stensel.
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