CAT | Heart Health
Regardless of whether you are trying to lose weight or simply maintain a healthy body weight, the topic of calories has likely come up a time or two. And although current research points to the importance of calorie quality over calorie quantity, it may not make a bean hill of difference when it comes to your brain.
As it turns out, our brains may be craving high-calorie foods even when we don’t know it. Scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital in Canada asked about 30 people to take part in a unique study—one in which they were asked to look at 50 images of different types of food and estimate their calorie content, as well as rate how well they liked them.
After viewing the images, study participants were asked to bid on each food item in a mock auction so that researchers could determine how much they wanted it. Interestingly, while their estimated calorie counts were incorrect the majority of the time, it seems their brains were one step ahead.
The more calories a particular food had, the more the participants were willing to pay for it—indicating their brains had no trouble picking out the high-calorie items. In fact, when high-calorie foods appeared, MRI scans showed increased activity in the areas of the brain that process the taste and sensory properties of food. Basically, your brain is evaluating the calorie content of your next meal even if you are unaware of it.
Scientists believe this insight into why people choose certain foods may help determine the factors that lead to obesity and related conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
We know from past research that fish-derived Omega-3 fatty acids provide a multitude of health benefits for the whole body—from supporting the heart, brain and nervous system to protecting our eyes and joints. Now, three new studies spotlight the role of Omega-3 fish oil in a healthy diet and why we should consume more of these healthy fats and fewer saturated and trans fats.
Fish Oil May Protect Against Diabetes
Past evidence has shown that fatty fish consumption can help protect against diabetes by having a positive effect on glucose metabolism. In a recent study conducted by scientists in Sweden, similar results were seen in the case of latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), which shares characteristics of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes including weight gain and insulin resistance. They found that one or more servings of fatty fish per week consumption was indeed associated with a reduced risk of LADA.
Omega-3 Fats Linked to Increased Brain Volume
Scientists no longer believe that age-related brain shrinkage and nerve cell death is irreversible. In fact, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that older adults who consume high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids showed signs of new tissue development and an increase in gray matter—the areas of the brain involved in memory, emotions, muscle control, sensory perception and decision making.
Americans Still Eating Too Many Unhealthy Fats
Results of a new long-term study published last month in the Journal of the American Heart Association show that although consumption of saturated fats and trans fats have declined in the last three decades, Americans are still consuming far more unhealthy fats than experts recommend. The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fats to one percent (or less) of total calories consumed and saturated fats to between five and six percent of total calories, while at the same time increasing the amount of healthy Omega-3 fats consumed from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring.