We all Scream for Ice Cream

Food addiction may be to blame for that second scoop

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(RxWiki News) Suspicions have been confirmed: ice cream is addictive! Well, maybe not. But highly rewarding foods such as ice cream and chocolate stimulate the brain and cause addictive-like neural changes.

Like with most things in life, the more you get, the more you want. But in the case of food, the more you pursue pleasure from food, the less happy you become.

And you might have your brain to thank for that.

"Think twice about overloading on food.  "

As it turns out, the more the brain releases pleasure-causing chemicals such as dopamine, the receptors that process the chemical become depleted. It’s as if they become burnt out on the pleasure overload.

That's not all.  When consuming these high-pleasure foods, your brain begins to transform in a way that mirrors the chemical reactions of a full-blown addiction.

But is food really the culprit?

Kyle S. Burger of the Oregon Research Institute, who helped lead a study to determine how the brain reacts to craving and consumption, doesn’t think so.

"I personally do not say food is addictive. I say energy-dense food, high sugar food, can elicit neural responses during consumption that parallel those seen in drug addiction. So it has addictive-like properties."

In their study, Kyle S. Burger and Eric Stice, took 151 adolescents of healthy weight and fitness and showed them cartoons of milkshakes while scanning their brain. After the viewing, the researchers gave the participants chocolate milkshakes made with Haagen Dazs.

What they found was the people who had consumed a large amount of milkshakes in the weeks preceding the study enjoyed the milkshakes less once they were consumed.

“Over consumption of these foods down regulates reward processes," says Burger, as was evidenced by the decreased activity in the brain’s pleasure center.  Unfortunately, it's this type of decrease in perceived pleasure that causes people to eat more and more food over time.  

The study was sponsored by the Oregon Research Institute and was published on January 5, 2012 by the American Society for Nutrition (publisher) for The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (publication).

Last Updated:
February 25, 2012