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Study shows our brain learns to prefer unhealthy foods through rewiring of reward system

Our preference for unhealthy and high-fat foods may be influenced by how our brain learns to like them. This is because when we consume such foods, our brain’s reward system is activated, making us crave them again and again. While this preference can also be influenced by genetic factors or being overweight, studies suggest that our brain rewires itself through the consumption of these unhealthy foods.

In a study conducted by researchers at Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne, in collaboration with Yale University, one group of volunteers received a high-fat and high-sugar pudding daily for eight weeks in addition to their normal diet, while another group received a pudding with the same caloric value but less fat. The brain activity of the volunteers was measured before and during the eight weeks. The results showed that the group that consumed the high-fat and high-sugar pudding exhibited increased activity in the dopaminergic system, the region of the brain responsible for motivation and reward. This suggests that through the consumption of these foods, our brain rewires itself to unconsciously prefer high-fat and high-sugar foods.

However, the volunteers did not gain weight during the study period, and their blood values, such as blood sugar and cholesterol, did not change either. The researchers believe that the preference for sugary foods will continue even after the end of the study because new connections are formed in the brain, and once a preference is learned, it may be difficult to change.

This phenomenon can be explained by the chemical properties of these unhealthy foods. High-fat foods contain large amounts of fatty acids, which trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. Similarly, high-sugar foods cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, leading to the release of insulin and the subsequent uptake of glucose by brain cells. This glucose uptake leads to an increase in the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which reinforces the reward system of the brain and creates a preference for these foods.

In conclusion, our preference for unhealthy and high-fat foods is influenced by how our brain learns to like them through the rewiring of its reward system. This preference can be difficult to change due to the formation of new connections in the brain. The chemical properties of these foods also play a role in reinforcing the reward system of the brain. Therefore, it is important to maintain a balanced and healthy diet to avoid long-term health problems.