The notion that food can be addictive has been debated for some time and largely rejected by both nutrition and addiction researchers. But this spring, the secretary of health, Kathleen Sebelius, said that for some, obesity is “an addiction like smoking.” One month earlier, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, gave a lecture at Rockefeller University, making the case that food and drug addictions have much in common, particularly in the way that both disrupt the parts of the brain involved in pleasure and self-control.
Princeton University and University of Florida researchers have found that sugar-binging rats show signs of opiatelike withdrawal when their sugar is taken away — including chattering teeth, tremoring forepaws and the shakes. When the rats were allowed to resume eating sugar two weeks later, they pressed the food lever so frantically that they consumed 23 percent more than before. Scientists in California and Italy last year reported that the digestive systems of rats on a fatty liquid diet began producing endocannabinoids, chemicals similar to those produced by marijuana use.
Earlier this year, scientists at the Oregon Research Institute conducted brain-scan studies on children who looked at pictures of chocolate milkshakes and later consumed shakes. Their findings suggest that just as drug abusers and alcoholics need increasingly larger doses over time, children who are regular ice-cream eaters may require more and more ice cream…Read More