The prevalence of obesity has increased rapidly over the past 30 years, and obesity-related illnesses are now a leading cause of death in the United States. This growth is due to multiple reasons, but increases in food intake are a large contributor. Put simply, Americans consume about 25 percent more calories than we did 30 years ago. Although the solution to this problem appears simple—eat less—more and more people are finding this impossible to do. Why is it so difficult for us to eat less? What has changed over the past 30 years to make it even more difficult?
The main goal of our research is to understand how diet affects reward and feeding circuitry in the brain. The lab investigates the hypothesis that certain diets can alter and impair neural circuits that regulate reward processing and food consumption, similar to how drugs of abuse impair these circuits in addicts.