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Could you train your brain to be disgusted by the tempting foods that aren’t good for your health?

You could potentially improve your health if you trained your brain to think junk food was disgusting.

Even people who think about their health when it comes to diet and regularly adhere to recommended guidelines know that the smell and appearance of something that is “bad” for us, like french fries, cake or a cheeseburger, can sometimes be all too tempting.

And for those of us who are on a somewhat loose healthy eating regimen, meaning nothing too intense in terms of strict rules, we might fall victim to these calorie and carb-packed delights even more. But what if we could train our brains to have more will power in this department? What if we could choose to actually be disgusted by the unhealthy foods we once craved?

In a new study, Kristina Legget, a psychologist at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine Anschutz Medical Campus, suggests there could be a simple way to retrain people’s brains into thinking the guilty-pleasure treats they love are actually unappealing: subliminal priming.

Participants were shown images of foods they reportedly enjoyed, and then quickly flashed images of things like a bug on the food or graphic injury pictures, which were so fast that a person wouldn’t actually have time to process it, but slow enough that the amygdala region of the brain does react to it.

After this process, the subjects reportedly were less interested in the foods they had once been much more drawn to.

“Three to five days later, they showed the same reduction [in desire] for the high-calorie food as they did immediately after the intervention,” Legget told NPR.

“It’s a very interesting finding, you know, the ability to change the value, basically, of a food item using this sort of subliminal priming,” Dr. Alain Dagher told NPR. A neurologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, Dagher wasn’t involved in the study.

These findings show that simply labeling food and its potential health-related repercussions isn’t as affective. “That doesn’t seem to work — doesn’t seem to get people to eat healthy foods, as we know,” Dagher said.

Legget reportedly believes that this technique could be used as a sort of weight-loss therapy, but Dagher apparently doesn’t think it’s that simple because you’d have to do the same treatment with every single specific food item, which could be unreasonable.

Another issue is the fact that we are shown advertisements on a daily basis that have trained us to be drawn to these foods, so counteracting that would be quite a feat.

Regardless, the findings are definitely interesting and demonstrate the malleable nature of our beliefs and desires.

Photo: Flickr user James