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Disgusting images can dissuade dessert desires, new study suggests
Some past studies have suggested that food advertising that makes food appear appealing is partially responsible for America's rising obesity epidemic. Now another study looks at how disgusting images can repel the brain from dessert. - photo by Chandra Johnson
Looking to cut back on dessert and shed a few pounds? The University of Colorado School of Medicine suggests cockroaches or pictures of the little buggers, at least.

The university is slated to publish a study next month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that found pictures of gross things from vomit to insects seemed to impart a feeling of disgust on participants that stuck when they were shown images of ice cream sundaes and other sweets.

The scientists showed the disgusting images for just 20 milliseconds preceding a four-second depiction of a dessert not long enough for the participants to register that they'd actually seen the disgusting images, but long enough for the brain to react with revulsion.

And the results stuck, the study found. The Washington Post reported that the study's subjects associated the feelings of distaste to the dessert photos three to five days after the initial experiment.

The study had its drawbacks, as The Post reported. For example, the subjects did not associate any positive revelations when being shown "happy" subliminal photos of kittens or babies preceding healthy, low-calorie food.

At a time when an estimated one-third of Americans qualify as obese and some studies have shown that exposure to food advertising can contribute to childhood obesity, the scientists behind the study are intrigued.

"When it comes to food behavior, disgust can be very powerful," University of Colorado School of Medicine psychiatrist Kristina Legget told The Post. "Kittens and babies are not as powerful as mutilation and contamination."
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