CHICAGO (Reuters) – see a milkshake can activate the same areas of the brain light up when a cocaine addict looks, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
The study helps to explain why it can be so difficult for some to maintain a healthy weight, and why it has been so difficult for drugmakers and health experts find obesity treatments that work.
“If certain foods are addictive, this may partially explain the difficulties people experience to achieve sustainable weight loss,” wrote Ashley Gearhardt from Yale University in Connecticut and colleagues in archives of General Psychiatry.
Gearhardt’s team wanted to see what happens in the brain, when young women is tempted by a tasty treat.
They used a kind of brain imaging known as functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to study brain activity in 48 young women who was offered a chocolate milkshake or a tasteless solution. Women in the study ranged from lean to overweight.
The team found that see milkshake triggered brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and medial orbitofrontal cortex–the brain areas that have been implicated in a drug addict in trang to use drugs.
And this activity was higher among women in the study who had high scores on a scale, as assessed their eating habits for signs of addictive behavior.
“These findings support the theory that compulsive food consumption may be kept in part of an improved anticipation of food making properties,” wrote Gearhardt and colleagues.
Persons who are dependent on a substance are more likely to react with the physical, mental and behavioral changes when exposed to the substance concerned. Change “picture clip”–signs of tempting treats, for example–might help curb urge to indulge, they said.
“Ubiquitous food advertising and the availability of cheap edible food can make it extremely difficult to comply with healthier food choices because the ubiquitous food cues trigger the reward system,” they wrote.
The study suggests that advertising can also play a role in the nation’s obesity problem, and future studies should look at whether food ads trigger this same kind of brain activity.
Obesity is one of the biggest health challenges for the United States, and health officials have already added a requirement to President Barack Obama’s new health care law requiring restaurants to add calorie counter to their menus.
(Editing by Laura MacInnis)
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