Love food? Me too.

Sometimes so much that I just don’t stop eating, even when it doesn’t taste that good anymore.

“I may as well finish this block of chocolate. I’ve come this far. I’m not going to give up now. I’m no quitter.”

Lo and behold, there is science behind why it’s so hard to stop eating. Australian researchers have found that Western-style diets, high in saturated fats and added sugar, can disrupt aspects of cognition. This disrupted cognition impairs food intake control, causing overeating.

Their theory is that we are eating plenty of food, as in enough calories, but our diets often lack the complete nutrition our bodies need. If you eat a bowl of chips, for example, you may feel full briefly but your body needs vitamins and minerals from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This means you will soon crave more food. If you keep feeding it the wrong thing, it will keep asking for more food.

The study found that typical Western-style diets also reduce food-related memory inhibition, meaning people are less likely to stop thinking about food after eating. The brain usually brings thoughts of food to the forefront when the body is hungry and suppresses these thoughts once eating is no longer a top priority.

The issue causing overeating is that these thoughts are not blocked out after eating. A diet low in fruits, vegetables and fibre and high in saturated fats and sugar impairs the memory inhibition abilities of the hippocampus (the part of the brain controlling memory and emotion). As food high in fat and sugar is palatable and produces pleasant memories, it makes it harder to resist more delicious food even when full.

Participants in the study that regularly ate a Western-style diet had poorer memory and learned slower than those who ate a healthier diet, and were much more likely to want snack foods following their meals.

Although this research was conducted on lean, young people, such tendencies have the potential to set people on the road to obesity. The inability to inhibit food memories explains the tendency of overeating and has definitely produced yet another reason to load that plate up with fruit and vege!