The world is getting sicker and sicker, because of what’s on our dinner plates.
According to the World Health Organization, global obesity and overweight rates have doubled since 1980. What that means: in 2008, 35 percent of adults over age 20, 1.4 billion people, were overweight; 11 percent were obese. While these conditions mainly used to afflict only the most affluent nations, it’s spread to the point where 65 percent of the world’s population “live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight”-in other words, today, more people die from eating too much, and too poorly, than from a lack of food.
Junk food has been identified as perhaps the primary culprit in the obesity epidemic. Research has emerged showing that high-calorie, high-fat foods replete with excess sugar and salt are desirable despite their health risks because they can be addictive, rewiring the brain’s reward mechanism just like cocaine does.
New research in Frontiers in Psychology gives additional insight into junk food’s further influence on consumers’ diets.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales Australia conducted several studies to see how junk food would impact rats’ weight and dietary preferences. Of course, they found the obvious-junk food “makes rats fat.” But they also determined that junk food-fed rats experienced a reduced desire for novel foods, which is important as this appetite tendency, innate in animals, typically encourages rats’ to pursue a balanced diet.
“Eating junk food seems to change the response to signals that are associated with food reward,” Prof. Margaret Morris, Head of Pharmacology from the UNSW Australia’s School of Medical Sciences and a study co-author, tells Newsweek.
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