Junk Food Junkies

I’ve been saying this for years: It’s a lot harder to quit sugar than drugs. And yet, as expensive as it is to treat diabetes and obesity-related conditions, why don’t insurance companies send people away for dietary rehab?

The findings in a study of animals cannot be directly applied to human obesity, but may help in understanding the condition and in developing therapies to treat it, researchers wrote in the journal “Nature Neuroscience.”

The study, involving rats, found that overconsumption of high-calorie food can trigger addiction-like responses in the brain and that high-calorie food can turn rats into compulsive eaters in a laboratory setting, the article said.

The scientists also found decreased levels of a specific dopamine receptor — a brain chemical that allows a feeling of reward — in overweight rats, as has been reported in humans addicted to drugs, the article said.

“Obesity may be a form of compulsive eating. Other treatments in development for other forms of compulsion, for example drug addiction, may be very useful for the treatment of obesity,” researcher Paul Kenny of The Scripps Research Institute in Florida said in a telephone interview.

2 thoughts on “Junk Food Junkies

  1. I have noticed a whole lot of inaccurate reporting on this one. Most of the headlines say stuff like “Fatty food addictive like heroin” or “Junk Food may be addictive.” The study doesn’t say either of those things!

    What it does say (http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nn.2519.html) is that they “detected compulsive-like feeding behavior in obese but not lean rats.” So yes, if rats are obese, certain foods can trigger binge eating. It does line up with what many humans with weight issues find: once the potato chip bag or the cookie box is open, it will soon be empty. Both fatty, but both have a lot of refined carbs too.

    But yes, I agree with you that added sugar (including HFCS) is a far bigger problem in the American diet than fat!

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