Study suggests you can 'train' your brain to crave healthier foo - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Study suggests you can 'train' your brain to crave healthier foods

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MADISON (WKOW) – A new study shows it might be possible to train your brain to crave healthy foods rather than junk foods high in sugars and salts.

Bob McGrath, a clinical psychologist who specializes in health and wellness psychology, said people get hooked on unhealthy foods relatively quickly.

“Not a lot of people crave broccoli or spinach,” he said.

But McGrath said weaning yourself off of chips, pizza, candy or other foods high in sugar or salt can be very difficult.

“Our eating habits become pretty well-engrained,” McGrath said.

In a study published in this month's edition of the journal “Nutrition & Diabetes,” researchers from Tufts University explain how they put a group of eight people through a rigorous, six-month nutrition plan.

The regimen featured recipe assistance and support group help, among other resources, to make sure participants stuck to low-calorie diets high in protein and fiber and low in fast-digesting carbohydrates.

Participants lost an average of one or two lbs per week.

But perhaps more significantly, tests showed their brains began to crave the healthier foods they became used to eating rather than higher-calorie, junk foods.

“It did appear they changed peoples' preferences and that might have been reflected in changes to their brains,” said Beth Olson, an associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the UW-Madison and extension specialist in the Department of Family Living Programs at UW-Extension.

“It's not surprising. Our brains are connected to our bodies, and over time we form habits,” Olson said.

But Olson cautioned that the typical person won't have the type of rigorous support structure included in the study when trying to lose weight.

“Just on your own thinking 'oh, I'll eat a little bit healthier,' we can't expect to do that and lose so much weight,” she said.

Olson added anyone seeking help losing weight should contact a registered dietician.

McGrath said he would like to see a similar study performed on a larger group of people to see if the trend of healthier, food cravings holds up.

But he said he's optimistic about the recent findings.

“It can be useful in terms of letting people know that yes, you can change your habits,” McGrath said.
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