Feeling tired and unmotivated? Your diet may be the reason why.
According to researchers at UCLA, being overweight or obese may be what causes people to feel tired and sedentary. The findings stem from a recent study where rats were fed a diet of highly processed, high-sugar food. Compared to rats that ate a standard diet, the rats that ate “junk food” gained a substantial amount of weight after three months had passed.
What’s more is that these rats also performed poorly in motivational tasks that required them to press a lever to receive food or water.
The overweight rats demonstrated impaired performance and required longer, more frequent breaks than the normal-weight rats. According to researchers, it’s possible that fatigue may be brought on by a junk food diet.
“We saw that in rats, a low-fat, high-sugar diet leads to obesity, sufficient enough to impair motivation in a lever-press task,” said Aaron Blaisdell, professor of psychology at UCLA. “The implication is that any lifestyle choices that lead to obesity in humans could drive impairments in motivation.”
According to Blaisdell, becoming obese through dietary choices or other factors could establish a vicious cycle of trying to get out of it, but being impaired by motivation issues. This, in turn, leads to more unhealthy lifestyle choices. In his opinion, the commonly held belief that people become fat because they’re lazy is wrong. On the contrary, the study data suggests that diet-induced obesity is what causes laziness. Whether fatigue is triggered by highly processed foods or by obesity itself remains unclear.
Blaisdell is preparing a new study to test the cognitive effects of the same type of unhealthy diet in rats. He’s curious to see if a junk food diet plays any role in focused attention, especially since obesity and ADHD coexist in many humans.
By Marianne Hayes