If you’re exercising to drop some weight, brain training with a planned diet can reduce your craving for cake.
If you find yourself sabotaging your training by diving into the biscuit jar, you may need some help. For the first time, researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible to alter human ‘reward systems’ to crave healthy food.
Over a six month trial, the researchers discovered that a combination of menu plans, high protein diets and consumption of ‘free foods’ (low calorie meals that can be eaten without restriction when hungry) changed subjects’ brain response to high and low calorie foods.
To survive, all species forge a link between the effort used in sourcing food and the reward in consuming it. This reward ensures we keep making the effort to eat. But abnormalities have led to an imbalance where the rewards for consuming high calorie meals far outstrip rewards for consuming lower calorie options.
It now seems that this can be reversed, according to scientists from Tufts University in the US. They discovered that portion- controlled menus and recipe ideas that combined low-GI (glycaemic index) carbs with high fibre and high protein, changed the subjects’ view of food.
During the trial, the successful weight loss participants ate 25% of their daily energy requirement from protein and fat, and 50% from low-GI carbs (such as pitta bread, and oat cakes). In addition they ate more than 40g per day of fibre.
An MRI scan confirmed a decline in reward system response to high calorie meals and an increase in response to low calorie meals.