Hacking your gut-brain axis to defeat fatty food cravings

From butter and cheese to pizza and ice cream, fatty food cravings can doom every diet to failure right from the start.

And while you may think those cravings are all about your taste buds, research is telling us that they’re not really about your tongue at all…

That’s because scientists have identified a connection between other body parts that can send your fatty food cravings into overdrive.

The far-reaching effects of the gut-brain axis

While it may sound a little whack that some weird connection between your gut and brain could be to blame for unhealthy food cravings, it’s actually simple science.

In fact, researchers have not only proven the existence of what is known as a gut-brain axis, they’ve been able to demonstrate the extensive role it plays in many aspects of our lives and health.

They’ve shown it’s the key to getting better sleep.

They’ve identified it as the link between bowel problems and dementia.

They’ve found that it can be a surprising cause of chronic headaches.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Now, Columbia University researchers have found that the same connection also drives our fatty food desires, which can lead to obesity and metabolic disease.

What’s really driving your desire for fatty foods

Previous research has even been able to connect our need for all things sweet to how glucose activates the gut-brain axis to make us happy. Calorie-free artificial sweeteners do not have this same effect and leave us feeling unsatisfied.

Well, it turns out, fatty foods do something similar…

The researchers set out to explore how mice respond to dietary fats in their drinking water, comparing it to water containing sweet substances that have no impact on the gut.

And they weren’t surprised when after just a couple of days, the rodents developed a distinct preference for that fatty water, leaving the sweet water sitting untouched.

But was it just because it tasted good?

Nope, the researchers had genetically modified the mice to remove their ability to taste fat on their tongues.

“Even though the animals could not taste fat, they were nevertheless driven to consume it,” said Charles Zuker, PhD.

So why were the mice craving all things fatty?

After measuring brain activity in the mice while they consumed the fats, the researchers found that fat literally made their brains light up thanks to activity along the vagus nerve, a nerve that links the gut to the brain.

“Our research is showing that the tongue tells our brain what we like, such as things that taste sweet, salty or fatty,” said Dr. Zuker. “The gut, however, tells our brain what we want, what we need.”

Help for cravings from a surprising source

So if your gut-brain connection is telling you to order another vanilla shake or reach for some deep-fried nuggets, is there anything that can be done to keep your healthy diet on track?

The answer may be in choosing healthier fats, ones that support your heart, mind and body, including your weight (not the kind in processed foods, which can make obesity a foregone conclusion).

Healthier fats include:

#1 – Omega-3s

Hands down, one of the top healthy fats to include in your diet are the omega-3s you’ll find in fish oil.

Not only can omega-3s help control your appetite, but they may also support a healthy metabolism so that you can burn off the calories you eat.

Plus, because your brain is your body’s most fuel-hungry organ, feeding it brain-loving fat could have a positive influence on the communication between your brain and your gut.

You can find omega-3s in fatty fish, like salmon and sardines, or grab more through a daily supplement.

#2 – Avocados

Avocados are packed with good fats, including oleic acid, which helps combat inflammation in the body.

#3 – Olive oil

A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is a big winner when it comes to your health.

So instead of battling your fatty food cravings, why not work with them instead?

Feed your body good fats to satisfy your desires, while supporting a healthier weight and body.

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Cravings for fatty foods traced to gut-brain connection — ScienceDaily

Fish oil-supplementation increases appetite in healthy adults. A randomized controlled cross-over trial — NIH

A diet rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids modulates satiety in overweight and obese volunteers during weight loss — NIH

Effect of dietary fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults — NIH

Virginia Tims-Lawson

By Virginia Tims-Lawson

Virginia Tims-Lawson has dedicated her life to researching and studying natural health after her mother had a stroke that left her blind in one eye at the age of 47, and her grandmother and two great uncles died from heart attacks. Spurred by her family history, Virginia’s passion to improve her and her family’s health through alternative practices, nutrients and supplements has become a mission she shares through her writing. She is founder of the nutritional supplement company Peak Pure & Natural®.