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Study: Does the brain naturally prefer junk food?

Study: Does the brain naturally prefer junk food?

Trying to live a healthier lifestyle can be incredibly challenging — precisely because our brain makes it that way! A McGill University study conducted earlier this year found that, given the choice between higher and lower-caloric foods, our brain gravitates toward choosing the option with more calories. Even more frustrating? Our brain actually knows which food is healthier than others, without needing to look at the back-of-the-box label.

"It's most likely through experience," Alain Dagher, the study's author and a neurologist with the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, tells Yahoo Health. Because nutrients travel through the bloodstream to the brain, "our brains learn what nutrients are present in the foods we consume. This is necessary, because humans are omnivores — we eat all kinds of things. So our bodies have to tell us what we need so that we shape our diets."

But what may be an evolutionary necessity can very quickly become an annoyance for those finding it difficult to lose weight in spite of eating better and consulting nutrition labels constantly. So what gives?

According to Dagher, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex of the brain is what assigns value to the foods we eat — and that value seems to be determined by a food's caloric content. In other words, the more calories a snack tends to have, the greater importance the brain gives it. Consequently, our minds are subconsciously inclined to the more calorie-rich foods, even if they may not be the greatest thing for our waistlines. 

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