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Researchers find that high-fat diets can become addictive

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet may cause alterations in brain chemistry that result in cravings for more fatty foods, according to a new study from University of Pennsylvania researchers. Cholesterol testing may help individuals decide if dietary changes are needed to avoid the situation.

For the study, researchers fed lab mice high-fat diets for an extended period. They found that this caused irreversible changes to the reward centers of their brains, resulting in the expression of genes that caused them to seek more fatty foods. This process is very similar to the mechanism that causes cocaine and heroin addicts to seek drugs.

"These results provide further insight into the health consequences of long-term, high-fat diets, and suggest one explanation for why some people face such difficulty in the path to weight loss and healthier eating," said Teresa Reyes, who led the study.

The findings provide confirmation to earlier studies, which suggested that individuals can become, in a sense, addicted to a high-fat diet. By operating the same as chemical dependency, the investigation helps prove why it can be so difficult for some people to modify their diets.

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