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Posted Mar 30, 2010, 8:34 am
Yes, it's possible that you can be addicted to junk food.
Although that seems like a "duh" conclusion, scientists have discovered that high-fat, high-calorie foods can affect the brain in ways similar to cocaine and heroin.
Rats became so hooked on junk food that it changed their brain chemistry, according to a new study by Paul M. Johnson and Paul J. Kenny of the Scripps Research Institute in Florida.
"People know intuitively that there's more to (overeating) than just willpower," Kenny told Health.com. "There's a system in the brain that's been turned on or over-activated, and that's driving (overeating) at some subconscious level."
Those reactions can intensify cravings that mimic addiction, the study found. That leads to eating more of the unhealthy foods, which leads to more chemical reactions, which leads to eating more . . . well, you get the idea.
Like any addiction, rats developed a tolerance to the foods they were eating and had to eat more in order to get the same high. They would even eat despite getting shocked, Kenny said.
“Their attention was solely focused on consuming food.”
The researchers hope these findings can provide a more successful way to battle obesity.