Obesity is a brain disease made worse by an American diet, new research suggests.
A key factor that helps control how much we eat is the feeling of hunger or fullness. Normally, when we are hungry, food thoughts are at the forefront of our mind. After we eat enough, those thoughts fade away.
However, a study by Macquarie University has found that this natural brain process is hampered by the Western diet. Basically its a “vicious cycle” model of obesity.
- Western diet of processed meat, sugar, white flour with few fruit and vegetables or whole grains impair neurological function. An area of the brain that appears particularly vulnerable is the hippocampus, an area that is crucial to learning and memory.
- The hippocampus is known to play a role in regulation of food intake. Individuals with damage to the hippocampus forget that they are full and eat more and more resulting in obesity. This overeating does further damage to the hippocampus and the vicious cycle continues..
The researchers also found that those on the unhealthy Western-style diet were slower at learning and had a poorer memory than those who ate a healthier diet. Previous research has suggested that middle-aged adults who are overweight and obese are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia compared to people of normal weight.
And children as young as seven may suffer from an impaired memory because of a fat and sugar-rich Western diet.
What this means for you
It’s not just the calories in a Western diet making us overweight. The diet itself makes us less sensitive to feelings of fullness, causing us to eat more. This information could be a great motivation to get people to eat a healthy diet and perhaps reduce rates of obesity.
Eat a healthy diet: Expand your dietary horizons. You give your brain the best possible chance to lower your weight if you eat more vegetables (5 to 10 servings a day, or half the food on your plate), minimize added sugars, refined grains and processed foods and cook from scratch whenever you can.
Your body can deal much more accurately with the food you prepare yourself than it can with packets and tins, making it much more likely you’ll eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.