The Checkup: Don’t Read Food Blogs If You’re Watching Your Weight

New research shows that women who react strongly to images of food are more likely to pack on pounds down the road.

• Everyone knows the mark of a good food blog is good pictures. After all, who wants to sit around looking at unappetizing images of slop on a plate? Problem is, researchers recently realized that looking at—and reacting to—appealing images of food can be an indicator of future weight gain. A team at Dartmouth College used 58 college freshmen—all female—as guinea pigs for their experiment, which probed activity in the brain’s reward center. They showed them a variety of images, including ones depicting delicious food and some of sexual activity, and measured brain response. Six months later, they gathered the girls again, weighed them, and asked questions about their recent sexual activity. They found that those whose brains more strongly reacted to the food images six months earlier showed more weight gain than others in the study. And the ones whose brains reacted to the images of sexual activity reported more sexual behavior during the preceding six months than their peers. Reports TIME:

The big take-home message is that our responses to reward cues are automatic and happen without our even being aware they are influencing our behaviors. That’s where being mindful of self-regulation or willpower can come into play. ”Knowing certain cues are affecting you can make you more aware of them, and perhaps you can use your self-regulation system to keep things in check,” says study author Bill Kelley, an associate professor of psychological and brain science.

In other words, if food’s your weakness, lay off the food blogs. Or at least, limit yourself to pictures of vegetables, ok?

• Good news, allergy sufferers: You’re not crazy! Allergies actually are worse than ever this spring. TODAY Health has poll results.

• Maybe it’s time to move to the ‘burbs. A new study out of Harvard found that long-term exposure to air pollution (read: smog) increases older adults’ risk of being hospitalized for lung and heart disease, stroke and diabetes.