A new study published yesterday in the journal Nature Neuroscience (http://www.nature.com/neuro/index.html) shows that in rat models, the pleasure centers in the brain become less responsive as the rats are fed high calorie, high fat foods, causing them to eat more and more of them to get the same pleasure effect. This is the same type of change that occurs in rats that compulsivey use heroin or cocaine.
Preliminary findings related to this study were released last October, but the study is just now being published. It basically proves what compulsive eaters have been saying for a long time - that junk food can become "addictive."
When the rats in the study were given healthy food to replace the high calorie, high fat food, they refused to eat. In a nutshell, that food did not light up their reward centers, so they simply didn't want it. They did, however, continue to eat the junk food even when they were shocked for doing so.
This is important for many reasons, but one exciting possibility is the finding of a receptor in the brain related to compulsive eating. Finding a receptor means a way to find treatment.
The journal article is "Addiction-Like Reward Dysfunction and Complusive Eating in Obese Rats: Role for Dopamine D2 Receptors," Nature Neuroscience, March 28, 2010. More information on the article is available for free at Physorg.com.
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