Could ice cream be as addictive as cocaine?

A growing body of research indicates that fatty and processed food could trigger the same addictive chemical response in the brain as certain addictive drugs. These scientific findings aptly display that food addiction is certainly a serious matter that can be very damaging if not addressed.

Research has been carried out that looks into the similarities between those who crave fatty foods and those who abuse substances such as cocaine. It has been found that the same receptors in the brain are affected in both groups of people. Sexual activity and exercise also stimulate the brain to produce more of the body’s natural reward/pleasure chemical dopamine. In the aforementioned however dopamine is only released in small quantities, in certain drugs however, overuse of them can cause the brain receptors to become unresponsive and therefore incite the user to take more of the drug to gain a response, and the same pattern can be seen in those who crave fatty foods.

The research into this field has been growing over the last decade with many of the leading universities and research groups finding that processed food and drink are not only unhealthy, but as addictive as certain drugs. They can effectively hijack the brain in exactly the same way drugs do. Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Nore Volkow said, “We are finding tremendous overlap between drugs in the brain and food in the brain.”  This is a topic that up until a decade ago was overlooked by scientists but now the field is booming. Lab studies have time and again shown that sugary and fatty foods produce addictive traits in animals and similar findings show that obese people and compulsive eaters when undergoing clinical brain scans appear to show disturbances of the brain in the regions that mirror addicted drug users.

You may remember a little while ago I wrote an article linking sugar consumption to addiction, the studies mentioned above mirror the findings of that study. Lab rats were fed a 10 percent sugar water solution, (the same amount that is contained in most soft drinks) and where as an occasional drink caused no obvious problems, those rats who were given the solution frequently wanted to drink more and more at the expense of their normal food and drink. They also experienced withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, shakes and tremors when the solution was reduced or taken away completely.

Mark Gold, chairman of the psychiatry department at the University of Florida said "Food addiction research may reinvigorate the search for effective obesity drugs"  he also mentioned that he is now working on treatments to alter food preferences amongst the obese whilst maintaining normal appetite.

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