We’ve all heard it before: “Junk food is bad for you,” “Fast food is like a drug,” and other such commentary have filled the airwaves for years. While these sentiments have often been written off as gross exaggerations, new research has shown that these claims are actually more based in fact than myth; a stunning surprise for the nutrition skeptics among us, no doubt.
Recently published in the neuroscience journal eNeuro, a study led by top nutrition and neuroscience researcher Dr. Guillaume Ferreira of the Université de Bordeaux in France is putting the spotlight on junk food–and what it actually does to your brain.
Dr. Ferreira and his colleagues conducted a study on rats and discovered that rat pups fed a high-fat diet showed a heightened response to amphetamines when they were older. As reported, “This study has implications for the study of the chemical basis of addiction, suggesting that reward-seeking behavior can take multiple forms and that unhealthy eating habits in adulthood share an underlying basis with drug use.”
To conduct their research, the team fed newly weaned adolescent rats a high-fat diet for a period of three months. Then, they studied their reactions to injected amphetamines. Locomotor responses, and brain activity–particularly that of dopamine pathways–were measured.
What they found was shocking: rats fed a high-fat diet exhibited extreme sensitization to the amphetamine drugs, in both their brain chemistry and locomotor reactions.
“Good” feelings all come from the same neural pathways, so while this finding may seem odd–it really makes quite a bit of sense. The team’s findings may help to better understand why humans seek out unhealthy foods, and perhaps even the nature of addiction in general.