A new study analyzing what happens to your brain when you eat fatty food confirmed that not only are donuts and fries not great for your arteries; they’re also not the best brain food, either. They found that junk food actually changes your brain, spiking certain chemicals and and possibly causing symptoms of anxiety and depression. And the worst part is that cutting yourself off from fatty food can also cause withdrawal.
This Is Your Brain On Food
Your brain on food–at least the fatty kind–looks disturbingly like your brain on drugs. Researchers studied the effects of different diets on mice over the course of six weeks–one was fed a low-fat diet (11% of their overall calories came from fat), and one was fed a high-fat diet (58% of their calories came from fat). The mice on high-fat diets gained weight (but didn’t become obese), and had higher levels of something called a CREB molecule–which plays a role in dopamine production, promoting the sense of reward–in their brains. They were also found to have higher levels of stress-related chemicals, and were found to show more symptoms of depression and negative behavior.
Dr. Stephanie Fulton, the lead study author, explained in a statement:
“The chemicals changed by the diet are associated with depression. A change of diet then causes withdrawal symptoms and a greater sensitivity to stressful situations, launching a vicious cycle of poor eating.”
Getting Hooked On Better Brain Food
Junk food and fast food have all been shown to be addictive before, but Fulton says their findings prove that this isn’t just a problem for the obese.
It’s interesting that these changes occur before obesity. These findings challenge our understanding of the relationship between diet, the body and the mind. It is food for thought about how we might support people psychologically as they strive to adopt healthy eating habits, regardless of their current corpulence.
Her comments also suggest that study findings like this can be used to help people adjusting their diets–instead of just discouraging us with more bad news along the way.