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Ice-cream ‘can be as addictive as cocaine’

Repeated consumption of high-fat or high-sugar foods alter brain's response to those foods.

Written by Agencies | London |
March 5, 2012 5:09:56 pm

Ice-cream buffs,beware! The mouth-watering treat could be as addictive as cocaine,according to researchers who claim to have revealed that the cravings for the two are quite similar.

A team at the Oregon Research Institute says it has found that the brain is left wanting for more while eating ice-cream in the same way as a person who regularly uses cocaine,American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported.

The new study seems to support previous claims that some people can become “addicted” to junk food,say the researchers from US.

Dr Kyle Burger,the study’s co-author,said overeating “high-fat” or “high-sugar” foods appeared to change how the brain responded and in turn downgraded the mental “reward”.

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He said,“This down-regulation pattern is seen with frequent drug use,where the more an individual uses the drug,the less reward they receive for using it. This tolerance is thought to increase use,or eating,because the individual (is) trying to achieve the previous level of satisfaction. Repeated,over-consumption of high-fat or high-sugar foods may alter how the brain responds to those foods in a way that perpetuates further intake.”

“The data supports the theory that overeating such foods may result in changes in how the brain responds to those foods in a similar fashion seen in drug addiction,” he added.

More than 150 teenagers,aged between 14 and 16,took part in the study,which required them to consume chocolate milkshakes before being interviewed about their eating habits and subsequent cravings.

The teens also had their brains scanned while they were shown pictures of chocolate milkshakes before given to drink.

All participants wanted the ice-cream but those who ate the most enjoyed it less and less. Instead,they had to eat more of it to experience the same level of enjoyment,the findings revealed. “You could be continually trying to match the earlier experience. This would lead to bigger portion and weight gain. While it’s unlikely that people become addicted to ice-cream per se,the findings appear to suggest that ice-cream has addictive-like properties.”

“Some individuals may frequently eat ice-cream or other high-fat/high-sugar foods and show no characteristics of addiction,while others may develop an addictive like relationship with food,” Dr Burger said.

However,the researchers said more research was needed because the assessment was based on brain responses to only one food item and relied on self-reported intake.

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