For better or worse, you are what you eat. Certain foods and activities have beneficial effects on brain health, while others are more problematic. Obesity is deeply rooted in the brain, where hunger signals and eating behaviors are based. Fortunately, scientists are increasingly aware of how the brain processes information about food and physical activity. This information could one day help reduce the numbers of overweight and obese people, and improve long-term brain health.
While eating habits were once thought to be a simple matter of self-control, researchers now know the chemical processes in the brain that drive feelings of hunger and fullness are complicated. Recent animal studies show fatty and high-calorie foods activate the brain’s reward system, and excessive eating leads to long-term brain changes. By studying the interactions between genes, brain chemicals, and the environment, researchers hope to develop new ways to address the global obesity epidemic.