Study Finds that Eating Sugary and Fatty Foods Trains the Brain to Dislike Healthy Food

Study Finds that Eating Sugary and Fatty Foods Trains the Brain to Dislike Healthy Food
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According to new research from Yale University and Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research, people crave sugary and fatty foods when they consume them frequently. The pattern can be challenging to break.

A daily snack that is high in fat and sugar changes the reward circuits in people’s brains, resulting in long-lasting preferences, according to a study published in the Cell Metabolism journal.

Participants were split into two groups and instructed to carry on with their regular eating routines with one significant exception.

For eight weeks, researchers gave one group twice-daily servings of high-fat, high-sugar yogurt while giving the other low-fat, low-sugar yogurt.

Participants were given puddings with different fat contents and apple juice with varying sugar levels at the end of the eight-week study, and they were instructed to rate them for desire, satisfaction, creaminess, fattiness, and sweetness.

Researchers discovered that the group used to eating yogurt with more sugar and fat didn’t appreciate the healthier options as much as they had appreciated them in the past.

MRI scans were also performed on the participants to monitor their brain activity while they drank milkshakes; these scans revealed increased activity in the high fat, high sugar group but not in the other one.

The study’s senior author, Dana Small, shared via NBC News: “Let’s say that a new bakery opens up next to your work place and you start just stopping in and having a scone every morning. That simple thing can rewire your basic fundamental dopamine learning circuits.”

Exposure to foods high in sugar and fat suggests that habitual factors, rather than just genetic and environmental influences, as previously believed, contribute to obesity, according to the authors, who compared the findings to the effects of addictive drugs.

Furthermore, Small told NBC News that this is the first study to demonstrate how even modest dietary changes in people can rewire brain circuits and raise the long term risk of overindulgence or weight gain.

The results are consistent with a rat study that was published in January in the Journal of Physiology, which demonstrated that a regular diet of high-fat, high-calorie foods can alter the neural pathways in your brain and lessen its capacity to control calorie intake.

The pathways between the brain and stomach did not appear to be affected by a “brief exposure” to fatty foods for three to five days, but the researchers did observe a decline after 10 to 14 days of high fat and high calorie diets.

A recent study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that people who consume a lot of ultra-processed food have significantly higher rates of depression. Junk food has been linked to depression.

Over 41 percent of US adults are obese, which raises their risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC.


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Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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