By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
Having a hard time switching from potato chips to carrots? You are not alone! As people in our country continue to grow more and more obese, many research scientists are putting in long hours to investigate biological causes. Last month, scientists from the Scripps Research Institute issued a report that shows -definitively, for the first time- that the same biological processes that cause drug addiction are behind the compulsion to overeat. Many obese people have been making this statement for years–that they feel out of control after eating junk food, and the more they eat, the more they want.
In the study, scientists monitored brain chemicals in rats, noticing that as the rats got more obese, their brains were less and less able to issue a reward to the body. As this pleasure center in the brain became less and less responsive, the rats developed the tendency to overeat, seeking that chemical reward. This is the exact same pattern that occurs in rats that are administered cocaine or heroin, and scientists believe that the pattern plays a large part in the development of drug dependency.
Paul J. Kenny, an Associate Professor at Scripps, conducted the study. He says that the nearly three year long study confirms the “addictive” properties of junk food:
“The new study, unlike our preliminary abstract, explains what happens in the brain of these animals when they have easy access to high-calorie, high-fat food. It presents the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on the same underlying neurobiological mechanisms. In the study, the animals completely lost control over their eating behavior, the primary hallmark of addiction. They continued to overeat even when they anticipated receiving electric shocks, highlighting just how motivated they were to consume the palatable food.”
The scientists offered the rats many types of food, but they always chose “junk” food. As a test, the researchers removed the junk food and tried to put them on a nutritious diet. Their preference for junk food was so strong, however, that they starved themselves for nearly two weeks.
To read the entire article, visit the original Press Release.
So if anyone tells you junk food is not addicting, think again. And pass the carrots!
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