Have you ever wondered why the foods high in fat or sugar, which are fattening and unhealthy, do we like them so much? Or why when we have a craving we fancy some chips or a piece of chocolate, instead of a plate of broccoli? Well, a new study could clear you up, because it has shown that foods with high levels of fat and sugar they change our brain and that if we consume them regularly, even in small amounts, the brain learns to demand them in the future.
The research leading to this conclusion has been carried out by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolic Research in Cologne, in collaboration with Yale University, who have revealed how this dietary preference develops that makes it so difficult for us to ignore the snacks and sweets that call out to us from the supermarket shelves.
“Our tendency to eat foods rich in fats and sugars, the so-called western diet, could be inborn or develop as a result of being overweight. But we believe that the brain learns this preference,” explains Sharmili Edwin Thanarajah, one of the authors of the study, whose results have been published in Cell Metabolism.
The brain learns to prefer fat and sugar unconsciously
To test whether their hypothesis was correct, the researchers added a small pudding containing a lot of fat and sugar to the normal daily diet of a group of volunteers for a period of eight weeks. Another group received a pudding with the same amount of calories, but less fat. Before starting the study and throughout it, the brain activity of all the participants.
In the group that ate the pudding with a high sugar and fat content, the dopaminergic system was activated, the area of the brain that is involved in motivation and reward
After eight weeks, the researchers found that the brain’s response to high-fat, high-sugar foods was significantly increased in the group that ate the high-sugar, high-fat pudding, specifically activating the dopaminergic system. the area of the brain involved in motivation and reward. “Our measurements of brain activity showed that the brain is rewired by eating chips and so on. You unconsciously learn to prefer rewarding foods. Through these changes in the brain, we will unconsciously always prefer foods that contain a lot of fat and sugar,” explained Marc Tittgemeyer, who led the research.
During the study period, the people who underwent the test did not gain more weight than the control group, and their blood sugar or cholesterol levels did not change either, but the researchers believe that the preference for sugary foods will continue. after finishing the study. “New connections are created in the brain and they don’t disappear quickly. After all, the main objective of learning is that once you learn something, you don’t forget it so quickly”, explains Marc Tittgemeyer.