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Saturated fats and refined sugar linked to brain damage, encourage overeating


(NaturalNews) For some people, losing weight is a no-brainer – eat less and move more, right? If it's so simple, why can't everyone do it? It turns out that if you've been eating a diet full of refined sugar and fat, you could actually be suffering from brain damage that stunts your ability to determine how much you should eat.

When it comes to weight loss, it's important to realize that saturated fats and refined sugar do more than just pack on the pounds. According to researchers, they also change the brain's chemistry, causing people to overeat these foods and triggering a vicious cycle of eating and gaining weight.

In a study that was published in Physiology & Behavior, trained rats were granted limited access to low-fat food and then tested on two types of problems – one that tested their memory abilities and learning dependent on the hippocampus, and one that did not.

After the training, half of the rats were given unlimited access to low-fat food, and the other half was granted unlimited access to food that was high in saturated fat and calories. After being given the same set of problems a second time, the rats that grew obese from the diet high in saturated fat and calories performed much worse than the ones who were not obese on the test of memory and learning dependent on the hippocampus. Both groups performed equally on the other test.

A dye test discovered that the blood-brain barriers in the obese rats were actually weakened, and these rats displayed changes in cognition that indicated damage to the hippocampus.

Brain simply can't turn off impulse to keep eating

Because the hippocampus suppresses memories, it is believed that the hippocampus's ability to suppress a person's undesired thoughts regarding high-calorie foods is actually affected by a diet that is high in sugar and saturated fat. This would explain why obese people are more likely to eat fatty foods and have trouble conjuring up the self-control needed to stop eating.

Researcher Terry Davidson of the American University Center for Behavioral Neuroscience said: "What I think is happening is a vicious cycle of obesity and cognitive decline. The idea is, you eat the high fat/high calorie diet and it causes you to overeat because this inhibitory system is progressively getting fouled up. And unfortunately, this inhibitory system is also for remembering things and suppressing other kinds of thought interference."

Davidson believes that the damage caused by such a diet does become permanent, although he concedes that he can't say precisely when that occurs. He points to other research showing that obese people and those who were obese in the past have weaker activity in their hippocampus when they eat than those who have never been obese. Losing weight, therefore, does not mean that a person will get that lost brain function back, and this could explain why people who have lost weight have so much trouble keeping it off.

Previous studies back up these findings

This ties in with a previous study that showed that obese and overweight kids ate 34 percent more calories from snacks after consuming a meal when compared to their siblings who were of an average weight in a study involving same-sex pairs of siblings. After eating a meal that they enjoyed until they reached the point of feeling full, the children were shown snacks. The overweight and obese children were more likely to actually eat the snacks. In addition, when given a high-calorie appetizer before dinner, the siblings of average weight then ate less dinner than their obese or overweight sibling. This suggests that some children are not as responsive to their body's internal hunger and fullness cues and will keep eating even when they are full.

While you might not be able to entirely undo the brain damage caused by a poor diet, the good news is that many people who can manage to avoid giving into the impulse to eat sugar find that their sugar cravings go away after a while, which makes eating healthier a lot easier. Without sugar's brain-altering effects, many people find that organic fruit and other foods actually taste a lot sweeter and more flavorful. Cutting out refined sugar could go a long way toward curbing the nation's obesity epidemic, and studies like these show tremendous potential for helping set people on the path to better health.





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