Diet high in sugar and fat can ‘addict’ the brain

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Consume food with sugar or fat too much is a habit that can alter the brain’s reward system and create a preference for these flavors. According to data from an unpublished study carried out in the Yale Universityin the United States, and in Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Researchin Germany, food can really change our behavior.

For eight weeks, the study authors followed two groups of volunteers, all healthy and with ideal weight. Both participants continued with their normal diet, however, a specific group started to eat yogurts rich in sugar and fat twice a day, while the other group started to consume only low-fat yogurts.

At the end of the period, the group that ate the more caloric versions could not appreciate foods with less sugar and fat content. Then the researchers did another test: all the volunteers underwent MRI scans while drinking milkshakes.

In the group where the participants had drunk the most caloric yogurts, the exam showed a different brain activity – highlighting the activation of the dopamine system, which gives the feeling of reward.

Consuming foods with sugar can pose health risks

According to the authors, the study shows how food can change our behavior in a short time, even without weight gain or immediate health impacts. As such, this can increase the risk of overeating, leading to obesity with all its consequences.

“Human beings have this preference for these foods for evolutionary reasons, from the time when they needed to store fat and energy”, explains the nutritionist. Paula Victoria Felixdoctoral student at School of Public Health at the University of São Paulo (USP).”

“The problem is that nowadays we don’t need all that amount and we are increasingly exposed, which ends up leading to overeating”, explains the nutritionist.

Food reeducation can be a solution

However, the good news is that it is possible to re-educate the palate and create the habit of eating smaller and smaller portions of these ingredients, opting for a healthier diet.

“In children, this process is even easier: if they have never been exposed to it, they will need less sugar to satisfy themselves. Our palate is moldable”, says the nutritionist. Therefore, the recommendation is that children do not have contact with sweets so early, especially before the age of two.

Technical review: Alexandre R. Marra, researcher at the Instituto Israelita de Ensino e Pesquisa Albert Einstein (IIEP) and permanent professor at the Graduate Program in Health Sciences at the Faculdade Israelita de Ciências da Saúde Albert Einstein (FICSAE).


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