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How nutritional choices may affect impulse control and brain efficiency

It could be the cooler temperatures, shorter days or reduced produce selection at the grocery store, but lately it's been more challenging for me to make healthy-eating choices. My efforts, though, have been reinvigorated after coming across more evidence that good nutrition is important for cognitive function.

In a study presented (.pdf) this week at the Neuroscience 2012 conference in New Orleans, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity in participants as they underwent a series of cognitive tests. As The Chart reports:

The overweight and obese participants’ brains showed more activity during difficult questions, suggesting they were working harder to get the same answers. [Lead study author Timothy Verstynen, PhD,] said the results imply that obese people are less efficient at making complex decisions, which could be important for controlling impulse behavior.

His team theorizes that unhealthy eating choices can lead to disrupted brain connections that lead to weakened brain performance, which can lead to making more unhealthy choices.

In other words, it's a vicious cycle.

The piece goes on to outline other studies presented at the conference, including one focused on how fasting or dieting may affect the brain’s craving for high-calorie foods and whether this process can be blocked using medications.

Previously: Exploring the connection between food and brain function, How lack of sleep affects the brain and may increase appetite, weight gain and High-fat foods may tell the brain to splurge

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