The pleasure of sweet, fatty treats may be habit forming, according to a new imaging study from Yale University. A group of 48 healthy women ranging in weight from slim to obese were teased with a chocolate milkshake while their brain activity was monitored. The results, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, showed a similar brain response as people with narcotic addictions.
The brains of the study participants who had symptoms of food addiction reacted the same way to pictures of ice cream as do the brains of drug addicts who are shown images of drug paraphernalia or drugs. Brain regions associated with self-control also lapsed, keeping with the similarities.
"In other words, women with symptoms of food addiction had higher expectations that a chocolate shake would be yummy and pleasurable when they anticipated eating it, and they were less able to stop eating it once they started." (Time, Szalavitz, 4/4/11)
Interestingly, the possible food addicts did not experience less action in the pleasure-related areas of the brain when actually eating the ice cream. Drug addicts, on the other hand, generally have diminished activity in this region when taking drugs.
If food addiction proves to be factual, then treatment of individuals with eating disorders may change significantly.
Studies on the physiological effects of food and drugs can be found here.
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