Train Your Brain to Lose Weight

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humanbrainPlease take these carrots away. I can’t stop eating them! Do you think you might ever say that? Or will that statement always only apply to chips? A study published recently in Nutrition & Diabetes indicates that you might b able to train your brain to like healthy foods instead of unhealthy ones.

Scientists at Tufts University and Massachusetts General Hospital studied 13 overweight adults, eight of whom were participants in a Tufts-developed weight loss program and 5 of whom were not. The weight loss program was specifically designed to change how people react to different foods. Both groups had MRI brain scans at the beginning and end of a six month period. While being scanned participants were shown pictures of unhealthy foods (French fries, Froot Loops, etc.) and healthy foods (grilled chicken breast, sweet potato, etc.). The scans showed changes in the weight loss program participants’ brain reward center associated with learning and addiction. They had increased sensitivity to the healthy foods, indicating an increase in enjoyment of these foods and showed a decreased sensitivity to the unhealthy foods.

It’s thought that liking unhealthy foods is learned and we become “wired” to prefer them. The study was small, but it is encouraging because it is the first solid indication that these “food addiction circuits” can be changed. Study co-author, Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D. of Tufts and the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA, said “We don’t start out in life loving French fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta. This conditioning happens over time in response to eating – repeatedly – what is out there in the toxic food environment.” Losing weight can be as simple as eating healthy foods and learning to like them. Who would have thought?

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