Junk food turns rats into addicts

Posted: November 16, 2009 in Life, Medicine
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

From the article:

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. “They’re taking in twice the amount of calories as the control rats,” says Johnson’s coauthor Paul Kenny, also of Scripps.

Johnson and Kenny wanted to know if this overeating affected the pleasure centers of the rats’ brains, the regions responsible for drug addiction. The researchers used electrical stimulations to activate these reward centers and induce pleasure. Rats could control the amount of feel-good stimulation by running on a wheel — the more they ran, the more stimulation they got. The rats fed junk food ran more, indicating that they needed more brain stimulation to feel good.

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.”

Not very surprising since fast food companies spend tons of money to make you eat there food and come back for more. This doesn’t have to mean you should stop with all the junk food straight away just that your aware of this and try to moderate your intake.

Trying to stop it all at once will only make the withdrawal so much worse then gradually stepping down.

“Everything in moderation” ~ Socrates

Original site.

WOG out.

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