New research has shown that the brain can be trained to prefer healthy food over unhealthy food, reported BBC News.
Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine studied a group of 13 overweight and obese men and women. Eight of the participants took part in a specially designed weight loss program that was high in fiber and protein and low in carbohydrates. The other five adults did not partake in the special diet.
The diet was designed so that participants would not become hungry, which tends to lead to food cravings taking over and unhealthy foods becoming attractive.
At the start of the study and after six months, the participants underwent MRI brain scans. The results showed that the brain’s reward center had been altered in those following the weight loss program. When shown pictures of food, the healthy, low-calorie foods produced an increased reaction while the unhealthy, higher-calorie foods produced a lesser reaction.
According to researchers, the findings indicate an increased reward and enjoyment of healthier food— and that the brain can learn to like healthy foods.
“We don’t start out in life loving French fries and hating, for example, whole-wheat pasta,” senior study author Susan B. Roberts, behavioral nutrition scientist at Tufts, said. “This conditioning happens over time in response to eating— repeatedly— what is out there in the toxic food environment.”