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Who doesn’t love indulging in an order of fries or a slice of cake from time to time? While the occasional treat won’t kill you, we know that we need to limit these foods to keep our bodies healthy. Well, it turns out that limiting junk food can also be good for our brains.

Junk Food and Overeating

You reach for a piece of candy and then another and another. The same thing happens with potato chips and other fatty and sugary foods. Research out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied how these foods affect the brain. They found that foods that were high in fat and sugar actually altered specific neurons in the brain. 

This group of neurons is responsible for glutamate, a molecule that sends signals to the brain regarding appetite and satiety. Scientists observed lab mice and found that those who were eating a high-fat and high-sugar diet experienced malfunctions with this set of neurons. Usually, their brain would send a signal that they’re full and don’t need to eat anymore. Yet, when the mice subsisted off of junk food, those signals went wacky.

Translating the Findings to Humans

The mice study was an eye-opener into how conditions such as obesity develop. It turns out that regularly eating junk food changes the way the brain deals with appetite. This could explain why it’s difficult to eat just a handful of chips, or why when you eat lots of sweet foods, you crave more and more.

Of course, junk food isn’t just bad for the brain; it also negatively impacts the body. Eating these foods in place of more nutrient-dense meals can lead to weight gain. More weight can contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and tooth decay, especially in the case of sweets.