If you find you can't open a packet of biscuits without scoffing the whole lot, then a new study may reveal why. Certain types of fat have a similar effect on the brain as Class A drugs, research suggests. The study shows foods rich in saturated fats heighten reward-seeking behaviour, much like an addict has to increase their dose over time.
Top tips to help you reduce your saturated fat
Saturated fat found in cakes, biscuits, pies has a 'similar effect on the brain as Class A drugs'
Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter and lard, pies, cakes and biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, sausages and bacon, and cheese and cream. It is also found in ghee, suet, palm oil and coconut oil.
For the study, researchers fed two groups of rats - one with a diet containing 'good' monounsaturated fats and another high in saturated fats.
The high-fat diets were all the same in terms of sugars, proteins, fat content and calories, and the animals were free to eat as much or as little as they liked.
The researchers claim the study is the first of its kind to show that, regardless of weight changes, unrestrained intake of saturated fats can have negative effects on the brain.
Professor Fulton continued: ''As we were able to control for changes in body weight, hormones and glucose levels, we think that the fats may be affecting the dopamine system by a direct action in the brain. We in fact have separate evidence that brain inflammation could be involved in this process, as it is evoked by saturated high-fat feeding, which will be presented in a future publication.''
The study was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
TOP TIPS TO HELP YOU REDUCE YOUR SATURATED FAT
* Swap butter, lard, ghee and coconut and palm oils with small amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oils and spreads.
* Choose lean cuts of meat and make sure you trim any excess fat and remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
* Instead of pouring oils straight from the bottle, use a spray oil or measure out your oils with a teaspoon.
* Read food labels to help you make choices that are lower in saturated fat.
* Opt to grill, bake, steam, boil or poach your foods.
* Make your own salad dressings using ingredients like balsamic vinegar, low fat yoghurt, lemon juice, and herbs, with a dash of olive oil.
* Use semi-skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk rather than whole or condensed milk.
* Cottage cheese, ricotta and extra light soft cheese are examples of lower fat cheese options.
* Remember that many cheeses are high in saturated fat so keep your portions small - matchbox sized. Opt for strongly flavoured varieties and grate it to make a little go a long way.
Source: British Heart Foundation
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