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Junk food addictive, stifles willingness to try new foods

Research on rats says junk food's not only unhealthy and addictive, but it appears to stifle any willingness to try new foods.
Lois M. Collins, Deseret News Modified: August 29, 2014 at 6:38 pm •  Published: August 31, 2014
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Junk food is not only unhealthy and addictive, but it appears to stifle any willingness to try new foods, according to a study led by the University of New South Wales Australia.

The study, which used rats as subjects, is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. It "explains how excessive consumption of junk food can change behavior, weaken self-control and lead to overeating and obesity," according to the study.

"A diet of junk food not only makes rats fat, but also reduces their appetite for novel foods, a preference that normally drives them to seek a balanced diet," the researchers noted in a written statement.

That's especially worrisome because, as Scientific American noted this week, "Obesity is now so normal that parents can't see it in their kids." It said gradual change is overlooked. That point was also hammered home in the journal Pediatrics, which published a study with that finding by researchers at Georgia Southern University.

In the junk food study, grape and cherry sugary waters were central to the research and both those with healthy and unhealthy diets were allowed the sugary drinks. The lab rats were taught to associate sound cues with the drinks. The rats that ate healthy diets did not respond to the cues when they were full. "This inborn mechanism, widespread in animals, protects against overeating and promotes a healthy, balanced diet," the researchers said.

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