"Our research shows that independent of weight gain and obesity, high-fat feeding can cause impairments in the functioning of the brain circuitry profoundly implicated in mood disorders, drug addiction, and overeating – several states and pathologies that impinge on motivation and hedonia," said Fulton.

"Another key finding is that the effects of prolonged high-fat feeding to dampen the sensitivity of this brain reward system are specific to saturated fats - palm oil used in this study - but not monounsaturated fat such as the olive oil used in this study," Fulton said.

The research team obtained these findings by working with three groups of rats. The first group of rats was the control group: they were given a low-fat diet containing roughly equal amounts of monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids.

The second group was given a monounsaturated high fat diet, of which 50 percent of the calories were from fat derived from olive oil.

The third group was given a saturated high fat diet - again, 50 percent of the calories were from fat, but this time derived from palm oil.

The high-fat diets were all the same in terms of sugars, proteins, fat content and caloric density, and the animals were free to eat as much or as little as they liked.

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