How does junk food affect your brain?

Eating too much junk food, or even just being near a fast food joint, can make you impatient, depressed and stupefied. As its name implies this type of food is both fast and junk, meaning that it is designed to provide instant gratification without much substance to speak of. A University of Toronto study has taken a deeper look at the effects that junk food has on the brain-and certainly with much more of a scientific basis than Morgan Spurlock’s skewed take on the physical effects-and found that fast food can impair the enjoyment of art, music, and nature.

That same study also discovered that people who are near a fast food eatery were more likely to choose a cash reward the next day instead of a slightly bigger one the next week, when offered to pick between the two, mimicking the instant gratification factor inherent to junk food that we mentioned above. When considering the Internet access made possible by mobile devices, and the existence of online banking, it doesn’t sound too far-fetched that people may actually make poor financial decisions while waiting for their order.

Other studies have likened the effects of junk and fast food on the brain to those of addictive drugs. For example, mice and rats that have a diet high in fat and sugar have been observed to show compulsive overeating habits, withdrawal and depression. This is because excessive intake of sugar and fat changes the brain’s chemical activity. Additionally, products like Oreo cookies have been recently known to activate pleasure centers even more so than cocaine or morphine. 

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