More than one-third of Americans are obese today. And for anyone struggling to pass up that second helping of chocolate cake, science may provide an answer.
In 2010, researchers found that rats’ brains respond to high amounts of fatty foods similar to the way addicts’ brains respond to drugs:
Both obesity and drug addiction have been linked to a dysfunction in the brain’s reward system. In both cases overconsumption can trigger a gradual increase in the reward threshold — requiring more and more palatable high fat food or reinforcing drug to satisfy the craving over time.
Scientists monitored the caloric intake, weight gain and brain activity of rats who were given unlimited access to high-fat foods.
As the rats became obese, levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain’s circuit dropped. In essence, the rats developed a tolerance to the pleasure that junk food gave them and required larger amounts of food to sustain that “high.”
Although the research may not directly apply to humans, it does provide insight on the factors that drive weight gain, contributing to our national health crisis.
[via @NDIA News]
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