Can You Train Your Brain to Want Healthier Foods?

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Changing anything in your life can be difficult, especially when it comes to your eating habits and incorporating healthier foods.  In today’s society, it’s not unusual to see someone eating fast food. In fact, it is far too prevalent and acceptable. Fast food has made it convenient for the busy American to pick up something on the way home or on the way to a meeting.  Our body becomes adaptive to this and begins to crave it, and science has proved that it is addictive. Once hooked, changing back to a healthy lifestyle can be challenging and difficult. We all know that creating a diet and sticking to it can be difficult, but a recent study has shown that we may be able to trick our brain into eating healthy.

This pilot study was published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes. The research state that changing our eating behavior can alter the way our brain reacts to high-calorie and low-calorie foods. In the study the researchers divided 13 overweight and obese participants into the control group and experimental group. Before the study was conducted, both groups got a fMRI to monitor their brain activity response to various foods.

The control group was able to do their normal routine and continue with their daily lives. The experimental group participated in a behavioral intervention program. The behavioral intervention program included portion-controlled menus and support group sessions. The participants were also asked to reduce their calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 calories and to add a high-fiber and high protein diet. Over the course of the study, the experimental group lost 14 pounds on average.

After 6 months, both groups went under for a second fMRI scan. During the fMRI scan, the participants were shown pictures of low and high calorie foods. The researchers once again measured the way the brain responded to these pictures.  In previous studies, high calories foods had shown to trigger the pleasure center of the brain by releasing dopamine. But after examining the experimental group after 6 months of alternating their diet, the experimental group shows a slightly different response to the images of high calorie foods.

This study is just the beginning of showing what can happen to the brain when you begin to alter the diet of the brain. The researcher in the study, however, does state that there is more investigation needed into this topic to be fully conclusive. But it does highlight that by making minor changes in the diet, we may be able to train our brain to enjoy eating a healthy diet.

Read more about the research on CNN