Eating junk food can actually change the brain, spurring symptoms of anxiety and depression if you stop consuming it, according to a new study in mice.
Researchers from the University of Montreal found that mice fed diets high in sugar and fat had different chemical activity in their brains and exhibited more signs of withdrawal if they stopped eating it, compared with those fed more healthy foods.
“The chemicals changed by the diet are associated with depression,” study researcher Dr. Stephanie Fulton said in a statement. “A change of diet then causes withdrawal symptoms and a greater sensitivity to stressful situations, launching a vicious cycle of poor eating.”
The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, included mice that were fed a diet low in fat for six weeks (where fat comprised 11 percent of calories in the food), and mice that were fed a diet high in fat for six weeks (where fat comprised 58 percent of calories in the food).
By the end of the study, those fed the high-fat diet experienced an 11 percent increase in waist size (but in mouse terms, this was still not enough to actually cause obesity in the mice). Researchers then analyzed the brains of the mice, as well as their emotions and behaviors, after having been on the diet.