Could rising obesity rates be due to the addictive quality of fatty and sugary snacks?
Junk food is bad for us. No surprise there then. But a shocking new study has revealed that fattening snacks could in fact be as addictive as heroine and cigarettes.
According to the research, food high in fat or sugar trigger exactly the same ‘pleasure centres’ in the brain as drugs and tobacco, making them difficult to give up.
The discovery emerged after experts studied rats fed on cheesecake, bacon and sausages. Almost immediately, the animals started showing signs of addiction.
‘In the study, the animals completely lost control over their eating behaviour and continued to over-eat even when they anticipated receiving electric shocks, highlighting just how motivated they were to continue eating the palatable food,’ says Professor Paul Kennedy from the Scripps research Institute in Jupiter, Florida.
Rats on a normal diet quickly learned to avoid the unhealthy food.
‘It presents the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on the same underlying neurobiological mechanisms,’ Professor Kennedy continues
The study concluded that parts of the brain that handle the feel-good chemical dopamine become unbalanced after eating junk food. The same changes occur after taking cocaine or heroine.
The good news is that people can adapt their food tastes if they want to. The key is to make subtle changes, such as giving up sugar in tea or replacing full-fat milk with semi-skimmed on cereal. Make simple alterations and new eating habits will eventually replace the old ones.