You Can Train Your Brain to Prefer Healthy Food

You're not born loving French fries or hating broccoli. You're conditioned to it over years of stuffing your face with rich, fatty foods. The good news is that you can undo all those years of conditioning and go back to loving what you're meant to eat: healthy food.

A new brain scan study of adult men and women published in the Nutrition & Diabetes journal suggests that it is possible to reverse the addictive power of unhealthy food that is formed over the years and also increase preference for healthy food at the same time. It was conducted by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University and at Massachusetts General Hospital.

So far, scientists have suspected that once your brain establishes healthy food addiction circuits, it's difficult or almost impossible to reserve them. In this study, scientists studied the reward system in 13 overweight and obese men and women, eight of whom were participants in a new weight loss program designed by Tufts University researchers and five who were in a control group and were not enrolled in the program.

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According to EurekaAlert, which spotted the study:

Both groups underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans at the beginning and end of a six-month period. Among those who participated in the weight loss program, the brain scans revealed changes in areas of the brain reward center associated with learning and addiction. After six months, this area had increased sensitivity to healthy, lower-calorie foods, indicating an increased reward and enjoyment of healthier food cues. The area also showed decreased sensitivity to the unhealthy higher-calorie foods.

The weight loss program had several features like behavior change education, and high-fiber and low glycemic menus. The key here was making healthier food more appealing instead of decreasing food enjoyment that procedures like gastric bypass surgeries cause. [Nutrition & Diabetes via EurekaAlert]

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