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The brain-changing effects of one more fatty, sugary treat
Sugar and fat. These two ingredients are the fuel behind diabetes, fatty liver disease and heart disease.
But even though we know they’re bad for our health, we still crave them.
So much so that you might even think that sugar hijacks your brain, causing you to eat more and more of it.
Well, according to the latest research, you’d be correct.
Eating fats and sugars just makes you eat more
“Our tendency to eat high-fat and high-sugar foods, the so-called Western diet, could be innate or develop as a result of being overweight. But we think that the brain learns this preference,” says Dr. Sharmili Edwin Thanarajah of the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research, Cologne, Germany.
Along with other scientists from the Institute, Dr. Thanarajah tested her hypothesis that eating high-sugar and high-fat foods changes our brain in ways that make us eat more of those foods instead of choosing healthier ones.
To test this hypothesis, the researchers gave one group of volunteers a small pudding containing a lot of fat and sugar once a day for eight weeks, in addition to their regular diet.
They measured volunteers’ brain activity before and during the eight-week period.
Brain changes were observed in the group that ate the puddings. Specifically, it activated the dopaminergic system, the region in the brain responsible for motivation and reward.
Dr. Marc Tittgemeyer, the study’s lead author, explains:
“Our measurements of brain activity showed that the brain rewires itself through the consumption of [fat and sugars]. It subconsciously learns to prefer rewarding food. Through these changes in the brain, we will unconsciously always prefer the foods that contain a lot of fat and sugar.”
Even if you’re a healthy eater, it won’t take much to affect your brain
Even if you’re not a habitual candy and chip eater, these researchers warn that all it takes is one binge to create these changes in your brain.
And once your brain has been rewired, you’re way more likely to binge again. And again.
Your brain will reward you with a dopamine “hit” for eating that candy, while it won’t give you any such reward for a healthy meal.
It’s easy to see how this can lead you down a path of craving sweets, even if you’ve spent your life avoiding them.
How to control those cravings
Clearly, the best way to avoid eating too much sugar is not to start in the first place.
Or, if you do indulge from time to time, here’s some advice on how to keep your brain in balance and avoid sugar cravings.
Chromium supplements can help curb sugar cravings. So can cinnamon, ginger, and other herbs found right in your kitchen.
And if you do slip, here’s how you can quiet the resulting sugar cravings.
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Sweets change our brain — Science Daily
Habitual daily intake of a sweet and fatty snack modulates reward processing in humans — Cell Metabolism