What a High-Fat Diet Does to the Brain

A high-fat diet causes cellular changes in the brain that could increase hunger, according to a new study. It is believed that the changes may raise the threshold of satiation, causing us to eat more and therefore to gain weight. What’s more, the changes happen very quickly. This means that we may have to eat more to feel full just a scant few days after indulging in a high-fat diet. Seriously.

A new study revealed that mice experienced cellular and metabolic changes within days of eating a high-fat diet. It is believed that inflammation from a high-fat diet causes microglial cells to shrink, causing the cells to burn through energy stores quickly and begin to seek more. Mice who underwent these changes ate more to satisfy these energy needs, and, as a result, gained weight. Let's look at how the brain encourages bad habits.

Fat Changes the Brain

Consuming high-fat foods creates changes in the brain, and not in a good way. While engaged in an intense study, researchers found that mice underwent many changes at the cellular level after eating fat. Most notably, the diet caused inflammation that triggered the release of a protein (responsible for energy control) into microglial cells. The cells, in turn, shrank.

The shrinkage of the cells made it difficult for the mice to regulate their energy intake. The hypothalamus, in an attempt to get much-needed energy to the cells, increased feelings of hunger. As a result, the mice began to consume more food and therefore to gain weight. When the protein was removed from the cells of these mice, however, they began to eat less.

The Brain Encourages Bad Habits

Not only does the brain control feelings of hunger, but when exposed to high-fat foods, it also develops behaviors and habits that are difficult to switch off. These behaviors, such as eating sweets or junk food, are enforced by the brain’s reward system. When we eat something we love, the brain releases feel-good hormones both when we eat and when the food reaches the stomach.

This is why it’s very difficult to change eating habits. When we stop eating junk for a few days, our physiological drive for high-fat foods may decrease, but the brain will continue searching for that reward. For this reason, if we want to tackle this monster, we must develop a strategy for reducing fat intake.

How to Reduce Fat Intake

The key to reducing fat intake successfully is to do so in such a way that the body and brain won’t feel deprived. We can do this by opting for low-fat foods that are high in protein and fiber. This will make us feel satiated and less likely to crave unhealthy foods. Coffee is also great at appetite satiation, as is water. Be sure to stay hydrated and eat filling foods. This will help reduce fat intake by leaving little room and preventing hunger which makes it harder to resist cravings.

Indulging in high-fat treats could leave a person feeling hungry and may cause them to desire more calories within days of making this change and for some time after, which could lead to weight gain. But with effort, this bond can be broken and the body reset to a normal caloric intake.

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1/22/2020 8:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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The article is unclear about what the circumstances of the study were. Were they eating a high-fat low-carb diet similar to a keto/paleo approach? Or were they eating a standard diet that that was higher in carbs and fat? It's an important distinction when someone is trying to research any approach.
Posted by NN
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