Food for Thought: An fMRI Investigation into Dietary Decision-Making



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In order to fight the obesity epidemic, restaurants in New York City with fifteen or more locations are required to make calorie information available to consumers. However, the legislation operates under the assumption that individuals have an understanding of caloric recommendations. Although studies indicate that Americans are aware of recommended daily caloric intake, calorie information does not significantly impact food-ordering behavior. Neuroimaging studies have found that the consideration of health aspects of a food is correlated with increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and prefrontal cortex (PFC). In the present study, participants were presented with a variety of food pairings with and without calorie information, and asked their preference. There was no significant effect of calorie information on food choices. In contrast, the presence of calorie information increased activation of the dlPFC and PFC, as well as areas involved with processing of numerical information. In the absence of calorie information, areas involved with self-reflective decision-making and nutritional regulation were activated. Results suggest that lack of immediate feedback resulting from a low calorie choice necessitates better education concerning the implication of calories on nutrition.



Calories, Decision-making, fMRI, Food