How food interferes with the brain

December 6, 2012

By Betty Murray

What you eat can alter your physical appearance, but new research suggests what you eat can also alter functions of your body, including your brain.Research presented at the Neuroscience 2012 conference showed how obesity affects cognitive function and also how fasting and dieting can actually make you crave more high-calorie foods.

In the first study, researchers used MRI technology to observe brain activity in 29 adults. Participants were shown words on a screen in different colors,and were asked to identify the color. Overweight and obese participants showed more brain activity when answering the questions than healthy weight participants, suggesting the brains of individuals who are overweight have to work harder to function and make decisions.

Researchers also explained how this may also make it more difficult for overweight individuals to make healthy food choices.

In the second study presented at the conference, researchers showed how dieting and fasting affect brain function. In the study, participants were asked to fast overnight. The next morning, they were given a breakfast of 700 calories and were shown photos of food while hooked up to an MRI. They were asked to fast overnight again, but this time they were not given breakfast the next morning. When shown the pictures of food, the participants’ brains showed more activity, a stronger reaction than when they were given food.

Researchers suggest that dieting and fasting makes the brain crave more high calorie food. This might explain why diets are rarely successful long-term.

Specific foods and ingredients have also shown to affect brain function. For example, in individuals with sensitivity to gluten, eating gluten triggers the body to attack the gluten the same way it would attack bacteria or disease, leading to intestinal damage and improper absorption of nutrients. The Gluten Free Society has labeled gluten a “potential neurotoxin,” as it can affect concentration, balance, walking, one’s ability to judge distances and can even cause numbness in extremities.

Making healthy food choices is about more than your physical appearance. What you eat affects the function of your brain, your ability to make decisions and even your heart’s ability to efficiently pump blood to your brain and other parts of your body. Before you eat, consider the effects that food may have on your brain.

Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.


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