Watch out for palm oil in your chocolates

written by Meena Azzollini

Chocolate candies heart shape composition

Credit:123RF

Its Valentine’s Day today – which means many of you will be consuming a lot of chocolates, amongst other sweet goodies.

As you all know that a chocolate-rich diet or a diet rich in saturated fats and sugar will lead to weight gain and obesity.

But that’s not all.

A new research from the University of Montreal tells us that such a diet creates inflammation in the nucleus accumbens – a part of the brain that controls moods and feeling of reward.

This inflammation can lead to depression, anxiety and compulsive behaviour which then disrupts metabolism.

Significant fat accumulation was also measured in both the groups but visceral fat was more pronounced in the palm oil group along with more caloric intake than the olive oil group and the control group.

Previous studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet low in saturated fats has a protective effect against depression.

An earlier study has also shown that obesity leads to depression and anxiety, resulting in hormonal changes which then impacts the reward signal and causes stress.

With this new study, scientists were able to understand the neuronal mechanisms that take place linking obesity to depression.

The researchers worked with three groups of mice and fed them a diet with the same number of calories every day. 50 percent of the calories came from fat. One group of mice was fed a saturated fat diet consisting of palm oil while the second group was given a diet of monounsaturated fat which included olive oil and the third control group was fed a low-fat diet consisting of soybean oil.

The mice were tested and analysed to determine the prolonged impact of an HFD ( high fat/ high-calorie diet) enriched with either palm oil or olive oil.

Both the HFD groups gained weight compared to the control group but the mice fed with a palm oil diet gained an average of 8.5 percent more body weight than the olive oil group.

Significant fat accumulation was also measured in both the groups but the visceral fat was more pronounced in the palm oil group along with more caloric intake than the olive oil group and the control group.

Compared to the control and olive oil group, the mice fed on a palm oil diet had higher insulin and glucose levels and they also exhibited glucose intolerance demonstrated by the oral glucose tolerance tests.

The HFD palm oil mice also demonstrated a trend towards reduced insulin sensitivity as compared to the other groups.

All the tests showed that within 12 weeks the diet rich in saturated fat palm oil led to obesity, anxiodepressive behaviours and metabolic changes which is linked to prediabetes.

The researchers found that that the inflammation caused by this diet in the nucleus accumbens results in the anxiodepressive behaviours and a genetic manipulation can inhibit a molecule that causes inflammation to spread in that part of the brain.

This manipulation resulted in the disappearance of depressive behaviours, anxiety along and compulsive behaviours associated with sugar as it succeeded in protecting the mice on a saturated fat diet from inflammation.

The study also showed that monounsaturated fats like olive oil provides cardio-metabolic and mood benefits despite increases in body weight mass and fat levels.

The researchers showed the vicious cycle involved in a diet rich in saturated fats and sugar which leads to obesity. This, in turn, leads to negative emotions resulting in the need to look for comfort through food which increases the risk of compulsive behaviour.

This study shows us that there is a deep link between diet and health which is not only associated with diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer but it is also linked to neurological and psychiatric issues linked with obesity. The study also validates that anti-inflammatory interventions can go a long way in treating depression in obese people.

Indulging in chocolates today or a few hamburgers once in a while will not cause any depressive issues but if you continue on such a diet regularly, over time it will affect your metabolism and your mental and physical health.

So enjoy your chocolates today but love your body forever by reducing saturated fats and sugar from your diet.

Source: Molecular Metabolism


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!