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Hedonic Impact ("Liking"), Incentive Salience ("Wanting"), and "Food Reward": Why Are We Hungry? Part VI
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September 29, 2011
2:39 am
Txomin
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The level of explanation is certainly keeping me interested. There is danger, however, in this gradual increase of conceptualization even if it is motivated by simplification (paradoxically). It is important, as I think you've pointed out, to remember that these are the makings of valid working hypotheses with which to establish the parameters of a productive discussion (in contrast with the manufacture of dogma).

Thank you. My post is simply meant to convey that I appreciate the time and effort you are invested on the blog.

September 29, 2011
3:46 pm
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Daniel:

You're right, I've said it before...but it's important to explain exactly why it's true.  Otherwise we can be misled into thinking that we should all be eating bland food by articles that either ignore or misinterpret the extensive existing literature on the subject of reward.

That's why your "eat some steak and eggs" strategy works: your body is saying "I need some nutrients", but it's easy for the presence of junk food to hijack that hunger.  Provide the nutrients and there's nothing to hijack.

And you're definitely correct about abstention and "out of sight, out of mind".  Again, reward and addiction have been extensively studied for a long time (though usually in the context of drugs and alcohol).  "Food reward" isn't a new concept. 

Franco:

No: your main mistake is trying to treat two values that aren't covariant as the same thing.  

If there's a constant and invariant relationship between two values, it's valid to lump them together, because you can derive one from the other.  However, in this case, there is no constant and invariant relationship between satiety, hedonic impact, and incentive salience...because satiety isn't the only thing that affects the other two.  

This is why the scientific literature defines them separately, and it's why I use them separately.

Again, you're correct that none of this is important from a "so what should I eat?" point of view.  I'm simply maintaining a sound theoretical and scientific basis for our empirical observations.

Txomin:

Future articles will absolutely turn back to empirical conclusions.  However, I find it absolutely necessary to maintain a strong theoretical basis...otherwise we just end up manufacturing dogma and starting arguments.

Example: statements like "it’s quite likely that the hypothesis in question is poorly specified" ought to be controversial...but apparently I've grounded my explanations well enough that they're not.

I'm glad you find my articles interesting and useful!  I've said it before...but the best way to thank me is to buy your Amazon stuff through my referral link (which costs you nothing) and/or to buy a copy of TGC if you haven't already.

JS

October 3, 2011
2:50 am
majkinetor
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In order to understand food reward, the best thing to do is study endo & exo cannabinoid systems. Their effect on reward is so powerful, that anything else is funny compared to it.

October 4, 2011
12:04 am
Franco
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Just one interesting (I think) observation I made yesterday evening, after I couldn't stop eating grapes (I ate 2 pounds) after dinner despite feeling full already and thinking to myself all the time "they're actually to sweet for my liking": Anything sweet, even too sweet AND bite-sized (and thus effortless to eat) is high reward for me. May it be the grapes or cherries, sweet popcorn or pralines (in the past). No bigger fruits or big-sized chocolate bar triggers that. Somehow the bite-size is the key for me.

October 7, 2011
9:46 pm
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majkinetor:

Do you have any good starting points?  As far as I know, hedonic impact and incentive salience are directly modulated by opioid and dopamine signaling...if those are both being driven by endocannabinoids, I'd love to know more about the process.

Franco:

Very interesting!  Bite-size helps, I think, because the feeling of a new thing has hedonic impact in itself.  Taking another bite of a half-eaten donut is not as rewarding as picking up a fresh donut and taking a bite.  Does this sound right to you?

JS

October 8, 2011
4:54 am
Franco
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I'm not sure, JS, we don't have that kinda donut-culture here in europe but I think you're correct about the hedonic impact of new pieces of the same thing.
After thinking about, it works with small meatballs on a buffet too, can't stop eating those as well (except with willpower).

October 9, 2011
8:49 am
Perfect Health Diet
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[...] of obesity. JS Stanton of Gnolls.org has been doing a closely related series, here’s his Part VI which explains key concepts relating to food reward, and has links to Parts I through V. Part IV [...]

October 10, 2011
1:34 am
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Franco:

I think we're onto something, because I've heard from other people that they also have trouble with grapes and other bite-size foods.  Not that it's a Major Factor In Obesity, but it's definitely a source of hedonic impact.

JS

October 10, 2011
12:28 pm
Franco
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JS,

I'm not obese and never was in my 43 years. So, I have to assume the "food reward mechanism" in my brain is working ok in general. I have no problems to say no to any kind of food if I want, even after 20 hours fasting. Still, those small things once started are the most difficult to resist.
Going functional paleo made/makes me feel better (and younger) overall, that's enough for me.

October 10, 2011
3:43 pm
Jack Kruse
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Jay nice job here. Enjoyed reading it.

Jack Kruse

October 10, 2011
11:01 pm
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Jack:

Always glad to see you here!  Stop by anytime.

JS

January 3, 2012
11:24 pm
Correcty Fairy
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Thank you so much for posting this article, J.!

January 11, 2012
3:26 am
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CF:

I'm glad you find the series valuable!  I've put a lot of work into understanding the relevant literature, and I'm always glad to hear I've managed to summarize it for others in an understandable way.

JS

March 11, 2012
7:09 pm
C. Perkins
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Several people have posted on the impact of insulin levels on hunger. I'm a type 2 diabetic who, despite eating a low carb diet since my diagnosis 18 months ago (and losing 60 pounds), has struggled with overwhelming carbohydrate cravings, particularly in the evenings. However, recently I've started on a new medication called Liraglutide (in addition to Metformin), and amazingly the cravings are pretty much completely gone. (Liraglutide is an incretin hormone mimetic that is known to promote feelings of satiety.) It has been very surprising to me to realize how much of my over-eating was triggered by hormonal imbalances. I still know that I "like" Snickers bars, but I no longer desperately want one.

March 11, 2012
11:44 pm
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C. Perkins:

The action of liraglutide is a great example of these motivations at work!

Liraglutide is a GLP-1 receptor agonist...in other words, it activates the same receptors as GLP-1.  GLP-1 is a classic satiety hormone, because it's stimulated by the digestion and absorption of nutrients.  ("GLP-1 secretion by ileal L cells is dependent on the presence of nutrients in the lumen of the small intestine.")  

Therefore, we would expect the result of taking liraglutide to simulate, at least in part, the biochemical state of already having eaten food.  That is, in fact, the case: you're probably up on all this, but my other readers can learn more about the effects of GLP-1 here.  

The interesting questions are, of course, "What caused my hunger motivations to get out of alignment, and can they be brought back into alignment?"  It's not as simple as "you have a genetic GLP-1 deficiency", because no one starts their life with Type II diabetes.  And that's why this is an interesting subject!

JS

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