Addicted to Junk Food
Often obese people make statements that they would like to eat less, but can't control themselves. The latest medical research proves that this might very well be true. This study appeared in the latest edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.
The study conducted on rats showed that after they were fed a steady diet of extreme junk food, they gained a lot of weight; however, they continued their compulsive overeating regardless of receiving electric shocks as punishment. A second group of rats were fed a healthy diet with minimal junk food. These rodents did not gain weight, or overindulge, when an electric shock would be the consequence.
Another surprising finding was that when the overweight rats were suddenly given a healthy diet, they preferred to eat nothing, and went virtually on a two week hunger strike. Starvation was perceived as the better option to them.
Although researchers aren't certain if these findings are applicable to human behavior, it's entirely possible that people who regularly indulge in foods that are high in fat and calories, have conditioned their brains in such a way that only these foods provide some level of satiety. When immediate satisfaction can't be attained, people will continually look to seek out additional quantities of unhealthy food and gain even more weight.
These rats were medically examined by scientists and it was found that they had lower levels of dopamine D2 receptors, which is a common condition among cocaine and heroine addicts. This also has significance in terms of how the brain defines its reward system. Food in this case, is the drug of choice.
When a virus was introduced to the healthy rats, which reduced the dopamine D2 receptors, they predictably began to compulsively binge on food. This leads to the conclusion that when people, over the course of time overeat, the D2 receptor levels decrease which leads to a vicious cycle of unhealthy eating and obesity.
In all likelihood, the only way for a person to break this cycle would be for them to diet for a prolonged period of time. Other studies have shown direct parallels between the consumption of desserts and drugs in test subjects. This particular study may provide additional clues about the link between obesity and addiction.
Human behavior can be a very powerful force and quite difficult to change. Modifying this conditioned behavior is a significant obstacle for many to overcome. What remains to be unanswered is why only certain people fall victim to these types of actions, or why some may chose food, over drugs or alcohol.
References and written by: Paul Johnson and Paul Kenny of the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla.