Brain scans suggest food addiction is real
Is food addiction real? Scientists from Boston Children's Hospital have used brain scans to support the claims that highly processed carbohydrates cause certain areas of the brain to be stimulated.
According to the researchers, when someone eats foods with a high-glycemic load – those foods most associated with obesity and overeating – the parts of the brain controlling both reward and cravings become stimulated, mimicking the same effects caused by other addictive substances. Ingesting these foods triggers dopamine pleasure centers in the brain and raises questions about addiction, the scientists reported.
The researchers recruited 12 overweight and obese men and used function MRI scans to track how their brains lit up when consuming a series of foods. The men drank two beverages disguised as a milkshakes, with the same calories, taste and sweetness, except one contained fast-digesting carbohydrates and one contained slow-digesting carbohydrates. After drinking the high-glycemic index milkshake – the rapidly digesting carbs – the men saw an initial surge in blood sugar, then a crash in blood glucose. The men experienced intense hunger and activation of the nuclear accumbens, the part of the brain which controls addictive behaviors.
These findings could help prove that limiting high-glycemic index foods could be a pathway towards treating food addiction and obesity. Reducing intake of these foods could help decrease cravings and control the urge to overeat, according to the researchers