Sweets Change Our Brain

Researchers have now shown that foods with a high fat and sugar content change our brain: If we regularly eat even small amounts of them, the brain learns to consume precisely these foods in the future.

Our tendency to eat high-fat and high-sugar foods, the so-called Western diet, could be innate or develop as a result of being overweight. But we think that the brain learns this preference,” explains Sharmili Edwin Thanarajah, lead author of the study.

Researchers gave one group of volunteers a small pudding containing a lot of fat and sugar per day for eight weeks in addition to their normal diet. The other group received a pudding that contained the same number of calories but less fat. The volunteer’s brain activity was measured before and during the eight weeks.

The brain’s response to high-fat and high-sugar foods was greatly increased in the group that ate the high-sugar and high-fat pudding after eight weeks. 

The high-fat/high-sugar intervention decreased the preference for low-fat food while increasing brain response to food and associative learning independent of food cues or reward. These alterations were independent of changes in body weight and metabolic parameters, indicating a direct effect of high-fat, high-sugar foods on neurobehavioral adaptations that may increase the risk for overeating and weight gain.

“Our measurements of brain activity showed that the brain rewires itself through the consumption of chips and co. It subconsciously learns to prefer rewarding food. Through these changes in the brain, we will unconsciously always prefer the foods that contain a lot of fat and sugar,” explains Marc Tittgemeyer


Sharmili Edwin Thanarajah, Alexandra G. DiFeliceantonio, Kerstin Albus, Bojana Kuzmanovic, Lionel Rigoux, Sandra Iglesias, Ruth Hanßen, Marc Schlamann, Oliver A. Cornely, Jens C. Brüning, Marc Tittgemeyer, Dana M. Small. Habitual daily intake of a sweet and fatty snack modulates reward processing in humans. Cell Metabolism, 2023; DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2023.02.015

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. “Sweets change our brain: Why we can’t keep our hands off chocolate bars and co..” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 March 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/03/230322140934.htm>.

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Photo by Irina Edilbaeva