The new study, published this week in the International Journal of Obesity, looked at 2,680 young adults who were not exercising regularly or dieting. Scientists found that after exercising for several weeks, formerly sedentary study participants were more likely to choose foods like lean meats, fruits and vegetables, while preferences for fried foods, sodas and other unhealthy options decreased.
Participants were instructed not to change their diets in any significant way, but it happened anyway. Although this study did not examine the mechanism at work behind the changes, previous research has found that moderate exercise can reduce a preference for high-fat foods in animals through changes in dopamine levels. Several studies also have shown a relationship between the intensity of exercise and the amount of appetite-regulating hormones in the body.
Process - Behavior - Molly - Bray - Author
"The process of becoming physically active can influence dietary behavior," said Molly Bray, corresponding author of the paper and chair of the Nutritional Sciences department at UT Austin and a pediatrics faculty member at Dell Medical School. "One of the reasons that we need to promote exercise is for the healthy habits it can create in other areas. That combination is very powerful."
Bray says what drives food-preference changes when people exercise would probably be consistent across a wide span of ages....
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