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Friday 28th October 2016

Fatty foods limit the effect of sadness

26th July 2011

Fatty food directly affects the brain, much like a psychoactive drug, according to a recent study from Belgium.


Study co-author Lukas Van Oudenhove, a psychiatrist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leuven in Belgium, said that eating fat seemed to make people less vulnerable to sad emotions, even if they were unaware of the fat content in the food they were eating.

The researchers are not sure whether or not other ingredients in food could have a similarly direct effect on people's neurochemistry.

Sonja Yokum, a research associate at the Oregon Research Institute in the US, who was not involved in the study, said she believed that the next step would be to test the effects of foods high in both fats and sugars.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to produce real-time brain scans for the study, allowing them to produce a rigorous scientific picture of the way fats affected people's brain chemistry.

The food was also fed directly into people's stomachs, bypassing their taste sensors.

In order to tune the brain sensors to the individual brain chemistry of all the study subjects, the researchers first made measurements that involved playing sad music and showing pictures of sad faces.

Based on those results, the researchers also came up with a way of quantifying happiness and sadness on a ten-point scale.

People's moods fell by about 2.5 points when they were exposed to sad stimuli.

However, dips in mood were minimalised when fatty acids introduced into their stomachs, unbeknown to the participants.

None of the people who took part in the current study were obese, and all of them seemed to stick to healthy diets.

Yokum said she believed that, in addition to broadening the types and combinations of foods under study, she believed it would be worthwhile to study people who usually ate in order to comfort themselves.

However, Van Oudenhove said he was not certain of whether or not the findings would eventually be of any practical value.



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