How Running Can Help Stem Junk Food Binges

RUNNING AND OTHER forms of aerobic exercise could be key to having the self-control to resist junk food cravings, suggests new research published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Previous research suggests that people whose brains have strong function in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) may have greater self-control when it comes to eating behavior. The new research, conducted at the University of Waterloo in Canada, examined this connection by testing the opposite scenario. Researchers used a theta burst stimulation procedure (a transcranial magnetic stimulation administered via a coil placed on the subjects’ scalps near the hairline) to temporarily decrease brain activity in the DLPFC of the subjects.

When the study participants received the theta burst stimulation, they had more food cravings and also ate more junk food during the subsequent tests than when a sham stimulation was received. When they received the theta burst stimulation, the participants were almost entirely interested in high-kilojoule snack food; they mostly ignored more healthful foods that were also available.

The researchers suggest that increasing DLPFC function could improve dietary self-control, prevent obesity, and even help manage diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. Running and other aerobic workouts are known to enhance DLPFC function. Getting adequate sleep and avoiding alcohol have also been shown to help with this aspect of self-control.


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