The brain can be trained to prefer healthy food over unhealthy high-calorie foods, using a diet which does not leave people hungry, suggests a study from the US.
Scientists from Tufts University say food addictions can be changed in this way even if they are well-established.
They scanned the addiction centre in the brains of a small group of men and women.
We don't start out in life loving French fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta.”Prof Susan B Roberts
|Scans of the brain's reward centre showed that food preferences had changed|
There is much more research to be done here, involving many more participants and long-term follow-up.”Prof Susan Roberts
The other five adults were not part of the weight-loss programme.
When their brains were scanned using MRI at the start and end of a six-month period, those following the programme showed changes in the brain's reward centre.
When participants were shown pictures of different types of food, it was the healthy, low-calorie foods which produced an increased reaction.
The study said this indicated an increased reward and enjoyment of healthier food.
The brain's reward centre also showed decreased sensitivity to the unhealthy, higher-calorie foods.
The Boston researchers say that gastric bypass surgery, while solving the problem of weight loss, can take away food enjoyment rather than make healthier foods more appealing.
"There is much more research to be done here, involving many more participants, long-term follow-up and investigating more areas of the brain," Prof Roberts said.