How Fatty Foods Affect Your Brain

Most of us will have experienced the allure of fatty foods at some stage. Whether we’re hungover, hormonal, tired or hungry, sometimes the craving for something fatty is all-consuming. Now, experts believe they’ve found a reason why fatty foods have such a hold over us.

According to recent research published in The Journal of Neuroscience, brain imaging in a study conducted by the University of Oxford has revealed an area in the brain that recognises the smooth, fatty texture or ‘mouthfeel’ of certain foods and then rates the allure of that sensation accordingly. By making this connection, the brain can essentially guide our eating behaviour, causing us to subconsciously place more value on high fat foods and choosing them over foods with a lesser fat content. The area of the brain where activity was noted was the orbitofrontal cortex, or OFC, an area that lies just above the eyes and that’s involved in decoding primary reinforcers like taste and touch, and crucially, reward processing.

One thing many experts agree on is that the desire to overeat high-calorie or fatty foods, can, to a certain extent, be influenced by regular exercise. According to a study published in NeuroReport, participants who partook in higher levels of exercise, compared with those who didn’t, showed significant correlation with lower responsiveness in orbitofrontal cortex. In other words, doing regular exercise not only comes with notable physical benefits like better cardiovascular health, but it’s also associated with reduced activation in the brain’s food-responsive reward regions.

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