Stopping High-Fat Diet Has Similar Affects as Drug Withdrawal
Scientists from the University of Montreal in a new study suggest that those who let go of a high-fat diet are more likely to be vulnerable to a cycle of bingeing and fasting, due to chemical changes caused in the brain.
The researchers suggest that going on a diet could have similar effects on the brain as drug withdrawal.
"By working with mice, whose brains are in many ways comparable to our own, we discovered that the neurochemistry of the animals who had been fed a high fat, sugary diet were different from those who had been fed a healthy diet," lead author of the study Dr. Stephanie Fulton was quoted as saying by Mail Online.
"The chemicals changed by the diet are associated with depression. A change of diet then causes withdrawal symptoms and a greater sensitivity to stressful situations, launching a vicious cycle of poor eating."
For the study, the researchers fed one group of mice a low-fat diet and a high-fat diet was fed to a second group for six weeks. During this time, the researchers kept a track of how different food affected the way the animals behaved.
The low fat diet included 11 percent fat calories and 58 percent in the high-fat diet, causing the waist size in the latter group to increase by 11 percent. This still did not make the high-fat diet group obese.
After that, the researchers, with the help of a variety of techniques, evaluated how rewarding the mice with food affected their behavior and emotions. Also, the brain changes in mice were looked at by researchers.
It was found through the study that the group of mice that was fed the high fat diet, exhibited more anxious behavior like avoidance of open areas and their brains were also physically altered, the report says.
Researchers also looked at dopamine in the brains of the rats, which is associated with good feelings in humans as well as other animals.
Certain genes involved in the production of dopamine are controlled by the CREB molecule, the report said.
"CREB is much more activated in the brains of higher-fat diet mice and these mice also have higher levels of corticosterone, a hormone that is associated with stress. This explains both the depression and the negative behaviour cycle," Dr. Fulton said.
"It's interesting that these changes occur before obesity. These findings challenge our understanding of the relationship between diet, the body and the mind. It is food for thought about how we might support people psychologically as they strive to adopt healthy eating habits, regardless of their current corpulence," Fulton added.