Long-term, high-fat diet alters mice brains: Brain changes may contribute to cycles of weight gain.
This study shows that when mice eat a high fat diet for a long time, it changes the brain’s reward center, so that they crave more fat. This is probably the biggest obstacle people have to deal with when wanting to lose weight. It is also my main frustration when working with weight loss clients. I know that many people are not going to be able to lose the weight, and keep it off, because they will constantly be fighting cravings for more.
I have come to the conclusion that most people in this country have eaten a diet so unnaturally high in sugar and fat, that now their brain’s reward center is so accustomed to this high, that anything less makes them feel depressed, or unsatisfied, hence keeping them on a constant cycle of cravings. And this is why so many of us are unable to lose weight and keep it off for long.
This is why I also think so many people are on antidepressants. They are physically depressed, mostly due to this unhealthy diet cycle of over-indulgence and then deprivation. Neurotransmitters get caught on this roller coaster of highs and lows and eventually they burn out or require more octane to get back the level they are used to.
If caught early enough, I think many can turn this around and recover. But it requires a lot of discipline and some initial suffering. You have to cut out any refined and artificial sugars and fats, and eat a very healthy, natural diet for quite awhile. At the same time, physical activity will help maintain the brain’s neurotransmitters at a level of pleasure that can replace the sense of loss from the fat and sugar being eliminated.
I also believe people will need to still eat some sugars and fats in order to avoid too big of a neurotransmitter crash, but they should come from natural sources, ie fruits, meats, vegetables, etc. It also helps to find other sources of pleasure during the first stages so the brain doesn’t feel deprived.
There is also a drug being developed for weight loss that raises the neurotransmitter dopamine. This allows the brain to still feel satisfied, even if deprived of chemicals that previously provided this stimulus. So by taking this drug while changing the diet to less sugar and fat, the brain still feels good and cravings become much weaker.
I don’t usually recommend drugs, in fact I usually warn against them. But for some people, this drug, used temporarily, and combined with the right balance of a healthy diet and exercise, could help many people get over that hurdle to losing weight and keeping it off. The drug is called Concentra. It is not available yet, but the company has applied with the FDA and expects to be on the market in 2011 or 2012.
Again, my first recommendation is to change your diet and lifestyle as young as possible. Even if you are older, first go the natural path of lowering your consumption of high levels of fat and sugar, and add high nutrient foods like homemade soups, dark greens and a variety of fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins and fats. But if you have been addicted for years to things like diet sodas, and junk food pizzas and fries, and you have tried everything to no avail, then this drug may be a potential option for you.
This study also should be a warning to parents to try their best to keep their children off this cycle of cravings and on the path of healthy eating.