A low-carb diet might help more than just have good effect on people’s health.
It might be influencing people’s behaviour making them a more open-minded person, says Soyoung Park of the University of Lübeck in Germany.
The reason is because less starchy meals tend to have more protein, which boosts levels of dopamine in the brain, involved in decision making.
Dietary protein affects the levels of an amino acid that is a precursor to dopamine in our blood. Since increasing the amino acid increases dopamine, and dopamine affects decision-making, Park wanted to confirm if a low-carb diet might change people’s behaviour. Her team asked people to participate in the “ultimatum game”.GAME RULES:They were split into pairs.
One of the pair was given some money and will decide how much to share with his partner. If the partner accepts the offer, both of them gets the cash, but if he/she rejects it, no one gets anything.In theory, people should always accept – because even a small sum is better than nothing in practical terms, people often reject low offers. We seem to have an impulse to punish those who split the money unfairly, even if we suffer a small loss, says Park.
So first, the team asked 87 people what they had for breakfast that morning and then got them to play the game. 76% ate low carb and 47% ate a high carb breakfast.Those who had eaten a low-carb meal were more likely to accept unfair offers compared with the high-carb group.
Then they asked 24 people to come in for breakfast before playing several rounds of the ultimatum game on two different days. The volunteers ate either a high-carb meal including bread, jam and fruit juice or a low-carb meal including ham, cheese and milk, then switched meals on the second day.
The team found people were more forgiving after a low-carb meal, accepting about 40% of unfair offers compared with 31% after the high-carb breakfast.To further the test and confirm that low-carb meals can affect our bodies in many ways, such as causing less of a blood sugar spike, the team took blood samples from the volunteers to work out what caused the effect.
When they measured levels of a compound called tyrosine, the precursor to dopamine, they found that low-carb meal raised people’s tyrosine more, and that high tyrosine correlated with forgiving behaviour. Dopamine might have this effect because it is involved in signalling that we have experienced a reward. Perhaps people with higher baseline dopamine levels from their breakfast found a lower sum of money offered by their partner more satisfying and were therefore more likely to find their low offer acceptable, says Park.
On the other hand, people could accept lower offers for other reasons. They may feel less aggressive, concludes Park – or even more rational, since accepting low offers is economically the right thing to do. But irregardless of why, people’s breakfast did seem to be changing their behaviour, the good side brought by a low carb one.
This presentation contains images that were used under a Creative Commons License. Click here to see the full list of images and attributions