Junk food can change brain behavior
Consuming junk food on a regular basis may lead to changes in the brain that could ultimately make it more difficult to practice healthy eating behaviors, according to a new animal study.
Using young male rats, scientists at the University of New South Wales in Australia first taught them to associate different sound cues with cherry- and grape-flavored sugar water. When rats that maintained a healthy diet overindulged in either of the flavors, they stopped responding to the sound cues with which the flavor was associated.
Next, the researchers allowed the rats to add junk food to their diet, including pie, dumplings, cookies and cake. Researchers observed that the rats had about a 10 percent weight gain and lost interest in healthy foods.
The rats were then made to return to eating a healthy diet, but researchers observed that it took them a long time to regain their responses that had been recorded at the start of the study.
The study’s findings, published in the journal Frontiers, suggest that eating an unhealthy diet can affect decision-making, which could lead to long-term changes in the brain. The study also suggests that advertisements for junk food may have a greater effect on people who are overweight and may be contributing to the obesity crisis, researchers added.