High on food - New studies show that diet alters brain functions

Monday, October 29, 2012 by: Raw Michelle
Tags: food, brain function, studies

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(NaturalNews) It may come as no surprise that what we eat affects the brain, and this is most obvious when looking at dietary disorders like obesity, compulsive overeating, and diabetes. The annual conference of the Society for Neuroscience took place between October 13 and October 17, and featured several new studies that investigate the relationship between brain function and food.

Bad dietary choices cast your brain into a vicious circle

One study showed that obesity influences brain function, by making the brain consume more resources to fulfill complex decision-making tasks. This means that the brain of an obese person needs to work harder to achieve the same results as the brain of a person of a healthy body weight. To determine this, scientists used MRIs to look at the brains of 29 study participants as they were completing a decision test, and found that obese people showed significantly more brain activity.

But what does this tell us exactly? The science team theorized that obese people get pulled into a vicious circle, where unhealthy food choices weaken the brain's ability to make good decisions, therefore, leading to even more unhealthy food choices.

Unhealthy food works like a drug

More and more scientists timidly point to the similarities between compulsive overeating and drug addiction. It is almost as if they don't quite want to go there, although new studies consistently provide evidence that strengthens this claim.

One such study, which was led by Dr. Tony Goldstone and was presented at the 2012 Neuroscience conference, showed that the brain encodes the value of food items according to how pleasurable or rewarding they are when eaten. This mechanism is also involved in drug addiction, and accounts for why many former addicts are in danger of relapsing even after being "clean" for a long time.

What you can do to end the vicious circle of unhealthy eating

People who suffer from eating disorders often eat at random hours. According to research, eating three meals per day, including a filling breakfast, can help stabilize your diet. Dr. Goldstone's study showed that the brains of people who skip breakfast are much more likely to be stimulated by images of unhealthy foods.

Another important aspect that can help balance a diet is finding alternate ways of dealing with stress. Personal development is a key component of overcoming addictions of any kind. Individuals who have struggled with eating disorders often say that finding emotional and psychological balance is a life-changing experience that can make the difference between staying "clean" and relapsing into a bad relationship with food.

To gain control over your body and eating habits, some researchers believe that it is important not to focus on dieting. Evidence shows that food deprivation resulting from dieting can trigger a primal response in the brain, which will then make the body store calories easier and find high-calorie foods more appealing.

Learning to tell the difference between physical hunger and psychological food cravings can help you discover when it is appropriate to eat. Replacing unhealthy snacks with a fruit or light beverage will fend off cravings without filling you with calories.

And lastly, it is possible that those who try to overcome eating disorders will struggle at first, relapsing at times. The guilt that some experience for their perceived failings can undermine their self-confidence, and drive them straight back into a bad relationship with food. That is why it is important to give yourself time, to be forgiving and to listen to your body.

Sources for this article include:

About the author:
Raw Michelle is a natural health blogger and researcher, sharing her passions with others, using the Internet as her medium. She discusses topics in a straight forward way in hopes to help people from all walks of life achieve optimal health and well-being. She has authored and published hundreds of articles on topics such as the raw food diet and green living in general. >>> Click here to see more by Michelle

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