Mice Don’t Like Being Hungry Either!

I came across a study that is a great example of what happens when people starve themselves (ie. diet excessively).  The results didn’t surprise me, because I think extreme dieting (the type that leaves people hungry and feeling deprived much of the time) can create cravings and even eating disorders.

The researchers involved in the study conditioned well-fed and starved mice to avoid an empty chamber in favor of a chamber with chocolate in it.  Of course both groups of mice chowed down on the chocolate – it’s good!  What happened next is really interesting.  The researchers sent the mice back again, but this time the starved mice had been re-fed (in other words, both groups were fed this time).  They gave the mice an electric shock when they chose the chocolate chamber over the empty one, and there was a difference between how the two groups behaved.  The mice that had not been starved left the chocolate alone (“I’m getting out of here.  That hurts!” – a normal reaction to pain), but the mice that had been starved were willing to tolerate the shock to eat the chocolate.

I would love to hear what you think about this.  What I thought was this:  Physical hunger does not help with weight loss.  It causes cravings and food obsessions.  The memory of being hungry affects how we eat later.  This applies to any way of eating that does not keep hunger under control.  Even though a person may not be physically hungry, the memory and fear of being hungry can “mess with your head.”  With all of the other reasons to eat (cravings for a certain taste, stress, boredom, . . . ), what sense does it make to add physical hunger to the mix?!  Physical hunger, all by itself, can feel stressful enough.  Any thoughts?  Can we learn something from these mice?


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