Despite our tendency to indulge in high-sugar and high-fat foods, research suggests it may not be entirely our fault. A recent study revealed that consistently consuming sugary and fatty foods has the power to reprogram our brains to crave them even more. These delicious but unhealthy treats, like chips, cake and cookies, have a way of persuading our brains to subconsciously prefer them. Even after we stop eating them, our brains still yearn for them. In short, we have unknowingly become addicted to fatty and sugary treats. Our brains learn to associate these fatty and sugary foods with pleasure, causing us to crave them even when we’re not eating them.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne teamed up with Yale University to investigate the effects of a high fat and sugar dessert on brain activity. For two full months, one group indulged in these sweet treats each day while a control group received a lower fat version with the same calorie count. Brain activity was monitored both before and during the study, giving us valuable insight into how our brains respond to our dietary choices.
The results found that indulging in daily high-fat and sugar desserts for just eight weeks can have a significant impact on the brain. The team observed increased brain activity in response to sugar and fatty foods causing a release of dopamine – a hormone that makes us feel good. Through this rewiring, our brains learn to prefer rewarding junk food without us even realizing it.
Discovering what brings us pleasure and motivation is tied to the release of dopamine in our brains. We enjoy simple things such as eating our favorite foods or working out, which sets off a chain reaction of dopamine being released. Interestingly, our brains learn to prefer certain foods due to the pleasure they bring. This reinforces our desire to seek out and consume these types of foods, creating a preference that may be innate or develop over time.
The study found that despite consuming a daily dessert high in fat and sugar, volunteers didn’t gain more weight or experience changes in their blood values compared to the control group. Researchers suspect that these individuals will likely continue to crave unhealthy foods due to newly-formed brain connections that are difficult to dissolve. This phenomenon suggests that the brain’s ability to remember enjoyable experiences may push individuals towards unhealthy eating habits in the long-term. In essence, our brains tend to hold on to pleasurable food memories, making it difficult to break the cycle.
To view the original scientific study click below:
Habitual daily intake of a sweet and fatty snack modulates reward processing in humans