Is the key to a healthy diet the type of fat you eat?
With a constant stream of new diets, trendy juice cleanses and celebrities promoting their “tips” to dropping pounds, the chaos of the weight loss landscape can sometimes give you a headache. That’s why it’s notable one new study examined not only how foods affect a person’s waistline, but also how they affect one’s brain function.
“These days, great attention is dedicated to the influence of the diet on people’s well-being,” said Professor Marianna Crispino and Professor Maria Pina Mollica, two of the study authors from the University of Naples Federico II, in a release. “Although the effects of high-fat diet on metabolism have been widely studied, little is known about the effects on the brain.”
Their research, published in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, found that saturated fats such as lard were dangerous because they affected a part of the brain that regulates hunger, called the hypothalamus. The researchers conducted the study on groups of rats, but say the results can also explain humans’ behaviors.
They found that rats who were fed a diet high in saturated fat experienced a change in the hypothalamus that caused them to have trouble regulating the amount they ate. Another group of rats fed a similarly high fat diet, but high in fish oil and not saturated fat, did not experience any changes in their brain function. They concluded that substituting unsaturated fats like fish oil, avocados and olives could help reduce one’s risk for obesity and possibly prevent other metabolic diseases.
Lisa Osowski, a dietitian at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill, agrees that fish oil has many benefits including:
- Reducing inflammation
- Supporting brain and eye health
- Protecting cardiovascular health
- Aiding in weight loss and exercise recovery
- Treating depression
However, she also urges caution when consuming fish oil. People taking fish oil should inform their doctor, since it can interfere with other medications.
In addition to causing issues regulating hunger, saturated fats also can cause inflammation and fatigue and increase your risk for cardiac disease. But Osowski admits it can be very difficult to stay away from all saturated fats, which can be found in:
- Cheese and butter
- Whole milk and ice cream
- Chips and crackers
- Fast food
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