Why Junk Food Should be Banished From Your Diet

Why Junk Food Should be Banished From Your Diet

If there's one thing that can be said without equivocation about today's world is that it is fast-paced. Our days are so filled with work, activities and responsibilities that we often look for ways to reduce our load. The problem is that when it comes to food, reducing your load often means increasing your girth. Fast food. Junk food. It's ubiquitous. But choosing poor quality nutrition is not just a bad idea, it can actually be dangerous.

Convenience may be the culprit.

What do I mean? The convenience of eating quick, yummy foods has become a normal part of life, but next time you reach for the easy fix, think about this.  A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology showed that feeding rats junk food caused them to gain weight. No surprise there. But the interesting finding was that it also reduces their appetite for a broader range of healthier foods that should be part of a normal, balanced diet. Instead of following the brains normal program to eat a variety, we are essentially re-wiring our brain to desire only the limited "junk" food.

Professor Margaret Morris, head of Pharmacology at the UNSW School of Medical Sciences Australia and lead researcher said "eating junk food may change our responses to signals associated with food rewards. It's like you've just had ice cream for lunch, yet you still go and eat more when you hear the ice cream van come by.” The results of the tests suggest that although normally our brain is designed not to overeat too much of one thing, and instead to seek out different foods, eating junk food causes us to lose the desire for other diverse foods.

Junk food knows how to trap you.

Healthy male rats were given sound triggers for either cherry or grape sugar water. Rats on a healthy diet stopped responding to the sound cue that caused them to overindulge on one specific flavor. This proved that the natural urge is to have diversity in our diets. Then the research team changed the rats’ diet to add 150 percent more calories from typical junk foods like pies, dumplings, cookies, and cake. Subsequently, the rats’ weight increased by over 10 percent, but more importantly, their choice to overeat these tastier junk foods continued unabated. They stopped avoiding sound cues of a certain flavor, became less picky about their food choices, and overate the poor nutrition. Even when the rats were returned to a balanced diet, their initial preferences for healthier and more diverse food options did not return and their overindulgence of the junk food persisted.

Morris summed it up saying it "suggests that consumption of junk foods may make you relatively indifferent to novel food, which may encourage overconsumption. Also you may overeat when exposed to signals linked to palatable foods, so an obese person may be more sensitive to advertising for foods like ice creams and chocolate bars."

Another study done at the Scripps Research Institute showed that the same molecular mechanisms that cause drug addiction are also associasted with the compulsion to overeat. If you stop to think about it, it's really not surprising. Eating the wrong kind of nutrition will have the same effect on your brain as regularly using cocaine, for example. It's hitting the same dopamine receptors.

Not only does eating junk food cause weight gain but it also re-writes our programming so we desire nothing but these foods. A lead researcher stated that "the development of obesity coincides with a progressively deteriorating chemical balance in reward brain circuitry. As these pleasure centers in the brain become less and less responsive, rats quickly develop compulsive overeating habits, consuming larger quantities of high-calorie, high-fat foods until they become obese." As with the first study, even when rats were returned to healthy diet, they just refused to eat. And the scariest thing was just how fast this occurred. It would seem that this kind of food is quicker to create an addict that most hard drugs.

The bottom line then is that we should regard junk food as a dangerous and addictive drug that can wreak havoc on our natural processes and move us toward severe health issues. So next time you casually reach for the quick and easy junk food, stop and remind yourself that it takes very little for poor health to take root and before you know it you are hooked on the bad stuff. Be disciplined and find smarter ways to feed yourself and satisfy your food desires. Exorcise the junk.

Related Posts: 
Why We Should Give Food its Proper Due
Calorie Restriction is a Gulp from the Fountain of Youth 
Easier Weight Loss - Tips for Losing Weight Without Struggling

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The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.

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