Want to crave healthy food? Just eat some

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Do you han­ker for deep-dish pizza or a burger with all the fix­ings, and push the boiled rutabaga and steamed okra to the far edges of your din­ner plate? The “ad­dic­tive power” of un­healthy foods may have a hold on you, say au­thors of a new study. The good news is the brain can pos­si­bly be re­trained to crave the healthy stuff, the re­searchers sug­gest.

“We don’t start out in life loving french fries and hat­ing, for ex­am­ple, whole wheat pasta,” said se­nior au­thor Susan Roberts, di­rec­tor of the En­ergy Metabolism Lab­o­ra­tory at the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s Hu­man Nu­tri­tion Re­search Cen­ter on Ag­ing. “It hap­pens over time in re­sponse to eat­ing—re­peat­edly— what’s out there in the toxic food en­vi­ron­ment,” she said.

In the study, re­searchers tested a diet pro­gram that al­lowed par­tic­i­pants to eat the bad foods they craved, but only if they did so in smaller amounts and sand­wiched them be­tween eat­ing the higher-fiber foods in­cluded in the diet. “It di­lutes the ef­fect,” Roberts told “They get the taste

Out­liers. with­out get­ting the rush of calo­ries that re­in­forces ad­dic­tion.”

The small study pub­lished last week in the jour­nal Nu­tri­tion & Di­a­betes fol­lowed 13 over­weight or obese adults for six months who were ei­ther en­rolled in the weight-loss in­ter­ven­tion or were not. At dif­fer­ent points dur­ing the trial, par­tic­i­pants were shown images of healthy and un­healthy items—such as a sweet potato and a bran muf­fin, or a choco­late chip cookie and fish sticks—as they un­der­went an MRI to see which foods trig­gered the brain’s re­ward sys­tem. By the end of the study, in­ter­ven­tion par­tic­i­pants were not only more suc­cess­ful at weight loss, but their brains had in­creased re­ward ac­ti­va­tion for low-calo­rie foods.

“It’s about let­ting bi­ol­ogy work in a nor­mal way and not re­ly­ing on willpower too much,” Roberts said.


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