There’s a scientific reason behind your junk food addiction

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Foods high in both fats and carbohydrates are harder to resist than foods that are high in just one of those categories, a new study has found.

With high levels of carbs and fats often linked with junk food, the new report highlights why it’s harder to resist Sunday night takeaways.

The study, undertaken by Yale University researchers and published in the journal Cell Metabolism, found that the foods containing both fats and carbohydrates overstimulate the reward center of the brain, making the food feel more rewarding than other types.

“In nature, foods high in fat and carbohydrates are very rare and tend to have fiber, which slows metabolism,” said Professor Dana Small, Director of Yale University’s Modern Diet and Physiology Research Center.

“By contrast, it is very common for processed foods to have high-fat and high-carbohydrate loads.”

The study, which included more than 200 adults, monitored the brain waves of subjects when shown images of foods that were high in carbs, fats, or both.

The scans showed that people’s brains reacted differently to images that showed foods high in both fats and carbs than images that only focused on only carbs or only fats.

“Our study shows that when both nutrients are combined, the brain seems to overestimate the energetic value of the food,” Professor Small said.

The study also found that participants were willing to pay more for foods that contained both carbs and fats.

“In the modern food environment that is rife with processed foods high in fat and carbohydrates like donuts, French fries, chocolate bars and potato chips, this reward potentially may backfire to promote overeating and obesity,” added Ms Small.

What does this mean for me?

With almost two-thirds of Australian adults and a quarter of children either overweight or obese, diets high in both carbs and fats can mean big trouble for our national health.

And while you may be tempted to simply blame your brain for your junk food cravings, cutting back may positively impact your waistline, as well as your back pocket.

For a healthy diet, Government initiatives encourage consumers to eat a balanced diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as controlled portions of carbs and fats.

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