Permanent Brain Changes from Diet High in Fat and Sugar
Scientists have found out how obese people cannot seem to resist eating high calorie foods even when trying to lose weight, explaining why obesity is quite difficult to overcome. Terry Davidson, director of American University’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, reports that consumption of high saturated fat and high sugar diets among obese people may lead to changes in the brain that stimulate them to eat more of these foods and make it hard for them to stay away from the high calorie foods.
Published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, the research focused on changes in the hippocampus (a part of the brain involved in learning and memory) of laboratory rats and found that the blood-brain barrier of obese rats were impaired. This functional barrier consists of a tight network of blood vessels which normally prevents many unhealthy substances from penetrating the brain.
The investigators trained laboratory rats to perform tasks that tested their memory and learning. Then the rats were fed either a low fat diet or a high fat diet. In the end the rats were again tested, and investigators discovered that obese rats which were fed high calorie diets consisting of high-energy foods from animal and plant oils performed more poorly compared to those who consumed the low calorie lab food. The scientists also found that the blood-brain barrier of these obese, high-energy fed rats had been impaired which could have affected their memory and learning.
They also found that there were non-obese rats which consumed the high calorie diet but did not demonstrate changes in the brain, suggesting that they ate less of this type of food and were able to maintain a healthy weight.
Davidson believes that their findings suggest that consumption of high calorie foods may be associated with changes in the brain that can lead to a vicious cycle of obesity and increased consumption of these foods.
American University . Obese brain may thwart weight loss: Diets high in saturated fat, refined sugar may cause brain changes that fuel overconsumption. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2012.