Frequently consuming unhealthy foods will trigger a series of brain changes, over time, that will make them more appealing to people even when not hungry. The study which drawn this conclusion was conducted on lab animals by the researchers from the University of Calgary, Canada. To be precise, researchers have uncovered changes in the endocannabinoid signaling of a specific area of the brain that is known as the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in overweight and obese lab animals.
To achieve this results, the scientists examined two different groups of rats. One of the groups consumed a diet rich in fat and sugars over a 24-hour period, while the second group ate the exact same diet but only for a single hour a day.
The unhealthy foods consumed by the first group produced brain changes in the endocannabinoid signaling system of the orbitofrontal cortex
After 40 days, the lab rats in the first group became overweight and even obese, while the rodents of the second group kept their weight intact. Additionally, as it has also been observed in other research, changes occurred in the OFC in the overweight and obese rats due to the unhealthy diet they’ve followed.
The OFC area of the brain is involved in decision-making and gets insight into the taste, feel and smell of food and adjusts the dietary habits on the basis of the data received.
“Obesity is typically associated with an elevated level of endocannabinoids in both humans and rodents, so these results are not surprising. However, our research shows that endocannabinoid signaling selectively affects inhibitory signals over pyramidal neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex,” explains the study’s report.
In normal-weight lab rats, the sensation of satiety after the daily 1-hour of unhealthy foods meals caused the depreciation of foods and a decreased appetite, whereas in the obese lab rats there is a decline in the inhibitory signaling of a type of neurons found in the orbitofrontal cortex, the so-called pyramidal neurons.