According to a new study by the School of Medical Sciences (UNSW Australia), junk food can alter behavior by causing lasting changes in the reward circuit of the brain – an alteration that triggers obesity.
Although the UNSW study was conducted on rats, the conclusions are applicable to humans since mammals share similarities in the orbitofrontal cortex that is responsible for decision-making.
To promote a healthy diet, Mother Nature has evolved a simple mechanism that protects animals (including humans) from overeating: the brain stops reacting to cues linked to flavors the body has recently indulged in, thereby enforcing the natural inclination to seek a healthy, balanced diet.
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With junk food: no such luck.
Nutrient-poor junk food, also termed as Cafeteria Diet or McDonald’s Suicide, contain fatty acids and acylcarnites that are not only associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, weight gain and tissue inflammation, but also increased activity in brain areas that process motivational control and reward behavior.
In the study, one group of rats were fed standard chow, the other a diet of cookies, cakes, biscuits, and other junk food for two weeks before they were subjected to “Pavlovian conditioning tests,” in this case a sound cue that informed the rats of the next serving.
Rats on a healthy diet that had already eaten ignored the sound cue while the rats on junk food continued to the next serving even after being satiated. The junk food rats lost the natural preference for novelty, an effect that lasted even after the rats returned to normal diet.
Meaning: junk food programs your brain to eat more junk.
“As the global obesity epidemic intensifies, advertisements may have a greater effect on people who are overweight and make snacks like chocolate bars harder to resist,” said Dr Amy Reichelt, lead author of the UNSW study.
“It’s like you’ve just had ice cream for lunch, yet you still go and eat more when you hear the ice cream van come by,” said Professor Margaret Morris, another UNSW team member.
The junk food rats had lost their natural preference for healthy foods, the team stated.
Junk food, in conclusion, may be the most efficient depopulation strategy in existence.
Obesity rates have doubled since 1980. In 2008, 500 million people were obese (BMI > 30), while 1.4 billion were overweight (BMI > 25). America leads the statistic with two out of three overweight or obese.
According to the Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century, 203 million people died in the last century from war and oppression, including military and collateral civilian casualties, genocide, politicide (i.e. the extermination of people who share a political belief), mass murder, and famine. That’s an average of two million per annum. The World Health Organization estimates that currently at least 2.8 million people die every year because of overweight or obesity that are directly linked to coronary heart disease, ischemia (brain stroke) and diabetes.
In other words, fat kills 40% more people than wars, famine, dictators, murderers and politicians put together.
Next time you pick up a candy bar remember that you’d probably be better off picking up an AK-47 on a battlefield, as far as your survival rate is concerned.
Or if you still think that there is nothing wrong with being fat, listen to Jim Morris who believed that fat is beautiful. You may feel better about nature’s most efficient killer.
Jim died at age 27.