Cravings for fatty foods can be reduced through intense exercise, according to a new study.
The experiment put rats on a 30-day diet and found that those that exercised intensely resisted cues for high-fat food pellets, compared to those that did not exercise.
The study by Washington State University (WSU) was designed to test resistence to a phenomenon called the ‘incubation of craving’ which indicates that the longer a substance is denied, the harder it is to resist it when signalled.
Travis Brown, the study’s author and a WSU physiology and neuroscience researcher, said: “A really important part of maintaining a diet is to have some brain power—the ability to say ‘no, I may be craving that, but I’m going to abstain.’
“Exercise could not only be beneficial physically for weight loss but also mentally to gain control over cravings for unhealthy foods.”
In the experiment, 28 rats were put though a training with a lever that when pressed, turned on a light and made a tone before dispensing a high-fat pellet.
After the training period, the researchers tested to see how many times the rats would press the lever just to get the light and tone cue.
The researchers then split the rats into two groups: one underwent a regime of high-intensity treadmill running while the other had no additional exercise outside of their regular activity.
Both sets of rats were denied access to the high-fat pellets for 30 days.
At the end of that period, the researchers gave the rats access to the levers that once dispensed the pellets again, but this time when the levers were pressed, they only gave the light and tone cue.
They found that the animals that did not get exercise pressed the levers significantly more than rats that had exercised, indicating that exercise lessened the craving for the pellets.
In the future, the research team plan to to investigate the effect of different levels of exercise on this type of craving as well as how exactly exercise works in the brain to curb the desire for unhealthy foods.
Though more research needs to be done, the study indicates the power of exercise on building restraint, Mr Brown said.
He added: “Exercise is beneficial from a number of perspectives: it helps with cardiac disease, obesity and diabetes; it might also help with the ability to avoid some of these maladaptive foods.
“We’re always looking for this magic pill in some ways, and exercise is right in front of us with all these benefits.”