Dangerously Delicious


Are junk foods HIJACKING your brain!? 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Junk food can be irresistible. But are we BORN with this preference, or is it something we LEARN? 

Sharmili Thanarajah from the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research and team investigated. 

Researchers began by measuring taste preferences and brain activity in about fifty volunteers. Then, they gave participants a daily snack for eight weeks. Half got high-fat, high-sugar yogurt – and the others a low-fat, low-sugar yogurt. Both groups were then retested four and eight weeks later. 

There were NO changes in weight. But, the fatty snacking group DEVELOPED a preference for higher fat food. And their brain’s taste and reward areas lit up more than the other group after drinking a milkshake. The researchers believe that they were more likely to associate eating with feelings of comfort. 

Our brains LEARN to crave unhealthy foods, highlighting the importance of our food environment.

What’s that brain? You want me to put… bacon… on a donut?!


Edwin Thanarajah, S., DiFeliceantonio, A. G., Albus, K., Kuzmanovic, B., Rigoux, L., Iglesias, S., Hanßen, R., Schlamann, M., Cornely, O. A., Brüning, J. C., Tittgemeyer, M., & Small, D. M. (2023). Habitual daily intake of a sweet and fatty snack modulates reward processing in humans. Cell metabolism, 35(4), 571–584.e6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2023.02.015