Scientists say food addictions can be changed in this way even if they are well-established. They scanned the addiction centre in the brains of a small group of men and women, reported BBC health.
The results showed increased cravings for healthy lower-calorie foods. According to study author and behavioural nutrition scientist at the Boston university this conditioning happens over time in response to eating repeatedly – which is out there in the toxic food environment.
Scientists know that once people are addicted to unhealthy foods, it is usually very hard to change their eating habits and get them to lose weight.
They studied the part of the brain linked to reward and addiction in 13 overweight and obese men and women, eight of whom were taking part in a specially designed weight-loss programme.
Scans of the brain’s reward centre showed that food preferences had changed. This focused on changing food preferences by prescribing a diet high in fibre and protein, and low in carbohydrates, but which did not allow participants to become hungry because this is when food cravings take over and unhealthy food becomes attractive.
The other five adults were not part of the weight-loss programme. When their brains were scanned using MRI at the start and end of a six-month period,those following the programme showed changes in the brain’s reward centre.
When participants were shown pictures of different types of food, it was the healthy, low-calorie foods which produced an increased reaction.The study said this indicated an increased reward and enjoyment of 0healthier food.
The brain’s reward centre also showed decreased sensitivity to the unhealthy, higher-calorie foods. Researchers say that gastric bypass surgery, while solving the problem of weight loss, can take away food enjoyment rather than make healthier foods more appealing.