Junk food binges can sabotage your diet

Junk food binges can sabotage your diet

Ever find it hard to get back to a healthy diet after a streak of poor eating?

Research says your brain may be the trick. A new study done by researchers from the School of Medical Sciences in Australia, took a look at how rats reacted to consuming a daily diet of high-calorie and high-sugar foods.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, found that the rats not only gained weight, but also slowly lost their preference for their normal, balanced diet.

Researchers believe this study shows how even in people, eating junk food can alter their actions, deteriorate self-control and ultimately drive a person to overindulge and even lead to obesity.

The study analyzed data from the rats after they consumed the unhealthy junk foods for two weeks. The rats stopped responding to natural cues that they were taught and their instincts then reverted them to the unhealthy foods rather than the foods they were used to prior to the testing.

Researchers believe these effects caused the rat’s brains to change the reward circuit, similar to humans.

“The interesting thing about this finding is that if the same thing happens in humans, eating junk food may change our responses to signals associated with food rewards,” said the lead researcher of the study, Professor Margaret Morris, in a statement. “It’s like you’ve just had ice cream for lunch, yet you still go and eat more when you hear the ice cream van come by.”

Registered dietitian, Jamie Portnoy with Advocate Medical Group in Libertyville, Ill., says often times once we tend to start eating junk food, we tend to crave more junk food and the cycle keeps on going.

Portnoy says that with junk food being so accessible in gas stations, movie theaters, supermarkets, homes, vending machines, etc., Americans are exposed to double sometimes even triple the actual portion in a restaurant. She says some of the meals and snacks can feed two or three people.

“When it comes to junk food (especially chocolate) we tend to have a hard time limiting to just a very small portion,” she says. “Excess amounts of junk food will lead to weight gain, obesity, and could even lead to diabetes.”

Portnoy adds that people often blame eating junk food on “having a bad day” or “under a lot of stress.” She suggests trying other alternatives then eating: taking a walk, or exercising when stressed.

Portnoy suggests the following options when you have a craving for those junk foods:

  • If you are craving something sweet, try raisins, dried fruit, fresh or frozen fruit dipped in dark chocolate.
  • If you are craving something salty, try non-salted almonds, whole-grain crackers, 3.5 ounces of vegetable juice with added water.
  • If you are craving something crunchy, try ants-on-a-log (celery with peanut butter and raisins), pickles or microwave popcorn.

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  1. I feel that it’s difficult going to a party and there isn’t any healthy snacks to eat. The healthy snack options are a great substitute to serve when hosting a party.

  2. Its shocking to me that people consider popcorn, esp microwave popcorn, a healthy snack. smh

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About the Author

Sarah Scroggins
Sarah Scroggins

Sarah Scroggins, health enews contributor, is the director of social media at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has a BA and MA in Communications. When not on social media, she loves reading a good book (or audiobook), watching the latest Netflix series and teaching a college night class.