Addiction to Sweets and Kids Obesity

BlogPic2New brain imaging research show that people might really we addicted to desserts.  Researchers found that eating highly-processed carbohydrates such as cakes, cookies and chips could affect pleasure centers within the brain that could lead to serious cravings that might cause people to overeat.

Study author Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital stated in a press release, “Beyond reward and craving, this part of the brain is also linked to substance abuse and dependence, which raises the question as to whether certain foods might be addictive.”

Our brains are made up of a complex network of pathways that controls for all our bodily functions.  Chemical messengers called neurotransmitters allow signals to pass from nerve cell to the next to aid in these functions.  One neurotransmitter, dopamine, actually plays a huge role in the brain’s reward pathways.  For example, the brain gets filled with dopamine when people take addictive drugs.

Ludwig and his colleagues recruited 12 overweight and obese men between the ages of 18 and 35 years old to study and find out how food intake was regulated by the dopamine pathway.  On two occasions the men were fed milkshakes that were almost the same but one was a high-glycemic index and the other was low.  The glycemic index measured how fast blood sugar levels rise after eating that item.  High glycemic cards digest rapidly and low-glycemic carbs digest slowly.  Four hours after their meals, they were given fMRL brain scans that measured the activity of these networks and pathways.  Men who drank the high glycemic milkshakes saw their blood sugar levels rise, only to crash four hours later.  When their blood sugar had dropped, they didn’t feel excessively hungry, but the fRMIs did show “intense” activation in the nucleus accumbens, which is a region of the brain that is involved in addiction.

Researchers also pointed out that during previous studies comparing eating vegetables or high-calorie cheesecakes showed different brain reactions.  This study showed that when calories and sweetness are similar, the glycemic index could still trigger brain changes that might lead people to overeat.

Ludwig mentioned, “These finding suggest that limiting high-glycemic index carbohydrates like white break and potatos could help obese individuals reduce cravings and control the urge to overeat.”

In reference to Processed carbohydrates are addictive, brain study suggests.