Small doses: Sugary snacks linked to addiction

  • Article by: SACRAMENTO BEE
  • Updated: June 3, 2011 - 2:12 PM

Refined sugar acts like a narcotic.

Cookies are hard to resist, for a reason.

Ever wonder why it's so hard to stop eating foods like candy, cookies, and other sweet stuff once you get started?

Research suggests that certain foods, especially refined carbohydrates like sugar and flour, act much like narcotics and other addictive substances in the brain, making it difficult for some people to modulate their intake of these foods.

A new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry seems to shed some light on this. In the study, 48 women were recruited for a weight maintenance study.

The women were first assessed for food addiction symptoms using the Yale Food Addiction Scale. Functional magnetic resonance images were done on their brains when they anticipated being given a chocolate milkshake, and then again after they consumed the milkshake.

The researchers found that those women with higher addiction scores at the onset of the study also had greater activation in the parts of the brain that are associated with addiction, and reduced activation in the parts of the brain that suppress food intake. The scientists also found that the areas of the brain that lit up on the MRI scans were the same areas that light up when people are exposed to addictive drugs.

The authors concluded that the compulsive intake of addictive foods like chocolate may be driven by the anticipation of reward in the brain, much like drug abuse.

This is a landmark study in that it demonstrated the correlation between addictive eating behavior and associated changes in the brain. It also provides one more piece of information about why it is so difficult for people to lose weight and keep it off.

SACRAMENTO (CALIF.) BEE

 

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