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NIDA Says ‘Overwhelming’ Evidence Supports Idea of Food Addiction

Can’t stop eating? Maybe you’re addicted to food – researchers say that the brains of compulsive eaters respond to the thought of fatty/sugary foods like the brains of alcoholics respond to the thought of a drink.

While a decade ago people mocked the idea of food addiction, times have changed and what once seemed laughable now just seems most likely.

Commenting on the results of the 28 clinical research studies done on food addiction over the last year alone, Nora D Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) exclaimed, "The data is so overwhelming the field has to accept it. We are finding tremendous overlaps between drugs in the brain and food in the brain."

Some food addiction research highlights from the past year include:

  • A study out of The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter Florida which found that rats given access to an hour a day of junk food would binge eat, even though they had an unlimited supply of nutritional food at all times. When their brains were examined, they showed activity patterns identical to those seen in escalating cocaine use.
  • University of Texas researchers took MRI scans of women drinking a milkshake and they observed a pleasure response in the brain. They repeated the MRI scans 6 months later and they found that women who had gained weight during that time showed a reduced pleasure response to the same milkshake – this blunted reward system of chronic overeating is identical to the blunted reward systems seen in chronic drug users.
  • Princeton University researchers found that rats given daily access to a 10% sugar solution (similar to the sugar content of soft drinks) became addicted to the drinks, greatly increased their consumption over time and demonstrated withdrawal symptoms when they couldn’t get the sugar solution.
  • Yale University researchers found that showing people with ‘addictive’ eating habits a picture of a milkshake caused a similar neural response as is seen when alcoholics anticipate having a drink.

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