Thursday, October 22, 2009

Junk-food junkie?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 3:06 PM

The scientists involved in this study are equating junk food addiction to heroine addiction. I believe it.

Junk food elicits addictive behavior in rats similar to the behaviors of rats addicted to heroin, a new study finds. Pleasure centers in the brains of rats addicted to high-fat, high-calorie diets became less responsive as the binging wore on, making the rats consume more and more food. The results, presented October 20 at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting, may help explain the changes in the brain that lead people to overeat.

“This is the most complete evidence to date that suggests obesity and drug addiction have common neurobiological underpinnings,” says study coauthor Paul Johnson of the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla.

To see how junk food affects the brain’s natural reward system — the network of nerve cells that release feel-good chemicals — Johnson started at the grocery store. He loaded up on typical Western fare, including Ho Hos, sausage, pound cake, bacon and cheesecake. Johnson fed rats either a standard diet of high-nutrient, low-calorie chow, or unlimited amounts of the palatable junk food. Rats that ate the junk food soon developed compulsive eating habits and became obese.

After just five days on the junk food diet, rats showed “profound reductions” in the sensitivity of their brains’ pleasure centers, suggesting that the animals quickly became habituated to the food. As a result, the rats ate more food to get the same amount of pleasure. Just as heroin addicts require more and more of the drug to feel good, rats needed more and more of the junk food. “They lose control,” Kenny says. “This is the hallmark of addiction.”

To see how strong the drive to eat junk food was, the researchers exposed the rats to a foot shock when they ate the high-fat food. Rats that had not been constantly exposed to the junk food quickly stopped eating. But the foot shock didn’t faze rats accustomed to the junk food — they continued to eat, even though they knew the shock was coming.

These reward pathway deficits persisted for weeks after the rats stopped eating the junk food, the researchers found. “It’s almost as if you break these things, it’s very, very hard to go back to the way things were before,” Kenny says. When the junk food was taken away and the rats had access only to nutritious chow (what Kenny calls the “salad option”), the obese rats refused to eat.

Read the entire Science News article here.

Apparently this isn't a new problem. The Jackson Five and McKenzie Phillips weigh in:

Tags: , , , , , ,

Pin It
Submit to Reddit
Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Creative Loafing encourages a healthy discussion on its website from all sides of the conversation, but we reserve the right to delete any comments that detract from that. Violence, racism and personal attacks that go beyond the pale will not be tolerated.

Search Events

www.flickr.com
items in Creative Loafing Charlotte More in Creative Loafing Charlotte pool

© 2017 Womack Newspapers, Inc.
Powered by Foundation