According to new research, we can train our brains to love a double serving of kale. I think we are going to have to take the word of scientists on that one. It turns out, we can train our brain to love healthier food choices. Evidently, we weren’t born loving french fries and hating cauliflower. We probably need a randomized study on that.
The new study out of Tufts University uses what they call the iDiet. The system turns dieting into gamification, and makes the dieter reward themselves at certain stages. Study co-author, Dr. Susan Roberts worked with 12 overweight and obese men and women to examine their personal reward system.
Eight study participants were enrolled in the iDiet program, while the remaining five were left as the control group. Developers of the iDiet say it is designed to change how the brain reacts to certain foods.
The menu on the iDiet system is broad and offers up high-fiber, low-sugar items. Online tools helped the participants shop and eat out smarter. Healthy options at common restaurants were displayed to guide the eight participating under the plan.
Before the study began, the entire group underwent MRI scans, and finished off the six-month study with further scans. Six months in, the test group’s scans showed an increased sensitivity to low-calorie, healthy foods. The MRIs showed the participant’s brain lighting up, indicating they enjoyed the healthier options.
Furthering the brain training theory, the test group showed a decreased interest in junk food. This is the first time that a ‘switch’ has been found as it relates to dieting. Study authors are quick to point out that while the research is promising, more needs to be done.
Foremost for researchers is a larger study, Thirteen participants isn’t enough to show a clear effect of training one’s brain to prefer healthy food over junk. If researchers can find a definitive way to train the population’s eating habits, it would go a long way to reversing the obesity epidemic.
The full study is published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes.