A new study was released that link the diets that lead to obesity (those high in saturated fats and refined sugars) to brain changes in the obese population that might actually make losing weight much more difficult for these folks than others who aren’t obese. In other words, it may not be about a lack of willpower that prevents the obese from losing weight … it maybe be that their brains are sending messages to their bodies that they need more of the diet that caused their obesity to begin with.
The research was published by Terry Davidson who is the director of American University’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience. Davison and his researchers focused on the area of the brain where memory and learning live called the hippocampus. They fed two groups of rats differently after training them in two different problems – a problem linked to the learning and memory area of the brain and a problem linked to a different area. Then, one group was fed a low-fat lab chow and the other were given an unlimited diet of high fat and calorie food, or, in other words a diet similar with that which is linked to obesity in humans.
After the diets were fed to the rats consistently, both groups were reintroduced to the original problems they were trained in. The rats who had been fed the high fat and calorie diet did significantly worse on the problems that were linked to the learning and memory area. They tested the same way as the rats fed the low-fat diet on the other problem. In addition, the researchers examined all of the rats’ blood brain barriers. This is the network of blood vessels that protects the brain and keeps things that shouldn’t be in there out. It was apparent that the obese rats’ showed that their blood brain barriers had been compromised, as they found a larger amount of a dye that doesn’t normally cross the barrier.
It appears that these results suggest that obesity impacts the learning and memory center of the brain directly. Further research will need to be done to determine whether humans are impacted similarly. If a high fat and calorie diet compromises the ability of the hippocampus to suppress unwanted thoughts, it’s possible that obese people are consuming larger serving sizes of bad food almost automatically. It’s important to keep in mind that there has already been research that suggests that obesity and Alzheimer’s are linked and that diet and brain function have a large and important relationship.
FoodFacts.com invites you to read more about this fascinating study: