If you have ever gone on a diet, or known someone who has, you probably know that most diets do not work. Although most people diet because they seriously want to lose weight, most give up on dieting because they are hungry. Depriving yourself of food tends to make you hungrier. People on diets also begin to crave the fatty foods and sugary treats they have been denying themselves. These unhealthy foods taste good and are addictive. What if there was a way to train the human brain and have people crave healthy food? Would this cure obesity? No one knows for sure, but early studies say that it just might be possible to retrain our brains into craving fruits instead of candy.
When we live on a constant diet of high fat, high calorie, high sugar foods that aren’t really healthy, we actually have trained the reward center in our brain to want these specific foods. A study, published in Nutrition & Diabetes, has shown that it is possible to train our brain into wanting healthy foods instead of junk foods.
- The Study
The researchers out of Tufts University chose 13 healthy men and women for the study. All were overweight or excessively obese. Eight of the 13 were chosen as part of the weight loss group, the remaining five people were the control group, and told they were being put on a waiting list for the next study.
To determine if this weight loss program would actually alter the neural circuitry in the brain, the researchers did MRI scans on all 13 participants at the beginning of the study (before they were split into the two groups), and then again six months later. The researchers wanted to study the striatum, the part of the brain thought to be most critical in the whole reward process within our brain.
The six month scans revealed that the diet group had changes in their brains that was not evident in the control group. At the end of the study, the people who had been dieting had brains that reacted more positively towards healthy food than towards things like candy or hamburgers.
- How Can This Help Regular People?
Although this study was rather small, it did confirm that it is quite possible to change the way we think of food. More research will need to be done to prove this theory. In the meantime, if we eat a healthy diet for a long time, we can help retrain our own brain.
As your body adjusts to eating healthier foods, you replace those junk food cravings with cravings for healthier alternatives. You can literally break these addictions yourself just by eating healthier. Once your body is accustomed to eating these healthier foods, you probably won’t even miss the unhealthy things you once craved.
- Keys to Better Eating Habits
Eliminate processed foods: look at the list of ingredients on the package, if you can’t pronounce those words then they are best avoided. When you buy fresh food you know what you are getting. Do you really need a label on a bag of carrots to know that the bag contains just carrots? Fresh foods will contain few additives. Eat organic foods whenever you can. These foods are grown without added chemicals. What you eat feeds your brain; what your brain craves depends entirely on what you feed it.
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