Kicking off the news this week, let’s take a look at food addiction. Can someone be addicted to food? Some experts say no, however, a recent study out of Harvard University may change their minds. Currently some experts say that food addiction is false simply because food is necessary for life, but the study from Harvard looks specifically at high glycemic index foods, including those with processed starches and high sugar content.

Milkshake Study and Addictive Junk Food

donut_jones_smIn the study participants were given one of two nearly identical milkshakes. One of the shakes was made using high glycemic index ingredients and the other with low glycemic index ingredients. Four hours after receiving the shakes, the participants filled out surveys looking at their hunger levels. Those who drank the high glycemic index shake were much hungrier than those who had the low glycemic index shake.

Researchers also carried out functional MRI imaging on the study’s participants and found that there was higher activation in the nucleus accumbens area of the brain. This area of the brain is an area that mediates pleasure eating, reward and craving and is the same area activated by substances like heroin and cocaine.

People Eat For Many Reasons

Said the lead researcher, Dr. Belinda Lennerz, food may be necessary for life but people eat for many reasons, not just that they are actually in need of sustenance. I think this study clearly shows that there are addictive characteristics seen in people who are overweight and having difficulty controlling their appetites.

Keep this study and others like it in mind when you are treating and talking with your patients. You may be able to give them encouragement and help them find a weight-loss assistance program that can better help them attain a healthy weight.


Make sure you follow-up on the links for this news item and all of the other news and additional resource links from this week’s episode – Emergency Care in Africa and Episode 363.


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