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Exploring ‘food noise’: Study sheds light on eating thoughts and obesity treatment breakthroughs

In a recent study published within the journal Nutrients, researchers in america reviewed anecdotal evidence concerning the concept of “food noise.” They discussed the methods utilized in studies on human eating behavior to evaluate and define “food noise” and the construct of food cue reactivity.

Study: What Is Food Noise? A Conceptual Model of Food Cue Reactivity. Image Credit: Tero Vesalainen/ Shutterstock


Extensive research on obesity treatments has led to significant advancements, akin to improved bariatric surgery and a big selection of medicines. The event of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists, or GLP-1RAs, has been a monumental step in weight management. Liraglutide and semaglutide are two GLP-1RAs that were initially used to treat type 2 diabetes but have been approved by america Food and Drug Administration for use for weight management. The usage of GLP-1RAs has resulted in significant positive results, with dose-dependent weight reduction and cardiometabolic improvements when combined with lifestyle interventions.

GLP-1RAs are also thought to activate the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptors within the organs and tissues within the body, especially the pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, and regions of the central nervous system, which regulate appetite and blood glucose and promote feelings of satiety. GLP-1RAs are also believed to traverse the blood-brain barrier and regulate reward-seeking behavior and appetite. Anecdotal evidence also points to reductions in “food noise,” indicating a psychological profit to using GLP-1RAs in treating obesity.

Food noise

While positive ends in weight reduction related to using GLP-1RAs have been observed within the clinical setting, anecdotal evidence from patients also report reductions in “food noise,” a term used to explain the persistent and dominating thoughts about eating and food that make the patients feel that that food was the middle of their lives. Examples of “food noise” described by the patients include constant thoughts about energy-dense and highly palatable foods, thoughts concerning the next meal while they eat one meal, and temptations to ascertain food delivery apps.

Such food-related intrusive thoughts can hinder the implementation of lifestyle alterations and contribute to emotional eating, maladaptive behaviors, and overeating. While using GLP-1RAs has been reported by patients and within the clinical setting as having a major impact in reducing food-related intrusive thoughts, it is crucial to conceptualize the concept of “food noise” and related constructs akin to food cue reactivity.

The CIRO model of food cue reactivity.The CIRO model of food cue reactivity.

Food cue reactivity

Extensive neural circuitry within the mesocorticolimbic region of the brain dictates the motivational responses elicited by food cues akin to sight, smell, and sound. These motivational responses manifest as food cravings and could be disconnected from a physiological need for food based on hunger, resulting in food-seeking behavior.

While such responses to food cues have been evolutionarily advantageous at times of scarcity to assist humans meet their dietary requirements, in the trendy, industrialized age, where humans are surrounded by loads of food and food cues, such motivational responses result in obesity and obese if unchecked. Moreover, the influence of social media and digital platforms present food cues in attention-grabbing ways to accentuate food cravings and consumption.

Nonetheless, reactions to food cues also differ across individuals, explaining why some individuals are more disposed than others living in the identical environment to develop obesity. Studies have shown increased cue reactivity in obese individuals, indicating that exposure to the identical levels of food cues can result in different experiences of “food noise” and subsequent food-related intrusive thoughts in several individuals.

Methods to check food cue reactivity

The review describes the Cue-Influencer-Reactivity-Consequence or CIRO model, which helps assess and understand food cue reactivity and its manifestations and determinants beyond obesity and maladaptive eating behaviors. This model also highlights that food cue reactivity is influenced by a mix of constant and changing aspects, leading to its dynamic nature.

Food cue reactivity could be assessed based on its biological and psychological manifestations. The biological or physiological manifestations include measurable cephalic responses akin to blood pressure, heart rate, skin conductance, salivation, and gastric activity. The brain’s responses to food cues could be studied using magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography. The psychological manifestations could be assessed based on changes in attention, measured using reaction-time or eye-tracking paradigms and questionnaires on aspects that influence eating behaviors.

Outcomes and implications

The researchers also discussed the short and long-term outcomes of increased reactivity to food cues, akin to incentive sensitization, conditioning, eating disorders, weight gain, and obesity. The study presented additional insights gained from using the CIRO model to evaluate the potential roles of GLP-1RAs in managing substance use and addiction disorders.

The review states that modifications to food cue reactivity could be caused by changing the food environment and exposures to food cues and altering the influencing aspects of food cue reactivity. The researchers also consider that to maximise the larger public health advantages of addressing food cue reactivity, concerted efforts are required on the a part of clinicians, policymakers, administrators, and the individuals themselves. For instance, behavioral and pharmacological efforts on the person level might have to be combined with community and administrative involvement to vary the food environment.


Overall, the review presented a comprehensive understanding of the concepts of “food noise” and food cue reactivity. The researchers also discussed in depth the aspects that influence food cue reactivity, the methods to evaluate it, and the assorted levels at which it could actually be addressed to influence eating behaviors.

Journal reference:

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