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Junk food cravings trigger same brain activity as drug addiction, suggests study

Monday, May 02, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: junk food, drug addiction, health news

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Delicious
(NaturalNews) The brain's response to the tempting appeal of a sugary, fatty milkshake or to a bag of salty, greasy snack chips appears to be the same response a drug addict's brain exhibits when anticipating the next "hit," suggests a new study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. Ashley Gearhardt of Yale University and her colleagues found that the addictive nature of many junk foods is literally the same as the addictive nature of drugs.

The team analyzed the brains of a group of 48 young women, who were tempted with either a chocolate milkshake or a tasteless beverage solution. Based on data gathered using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the team discovered that the women's anterior cingulate cortex and the medial orbitofrontal cortex -- two areas of the brain known to respond to drug addiction -- both responded to sensory cravings for the milkshake, regardless of the women's weight.

"If certain foods are addictive, this may partially explain the difficulty people experience in achieving sustainable weight loss," said Gearhardt. "These findings support the theory that compulsive food consumption may be driven in part by an enhanced anticipation of the rewarding properties of food."

These "rewarding properties," however, lie primarily in junk food chemicals. Many processed junk foods are loaded with flavor enhancing chemicals like monosodium glutamate (MSG), high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and aspartame, all of which are known to be highly-addictive. MSG, for instance, over-excites the brain to the point that it actually causes neurological brain damage -- but because it "tastes" so good, people quickly become addicted to it (http://www.naturalnews.com/024275_red_clover...).

Natural foods and spices, on the other hand, do not trigger the same addictive characteristics in the brain as junk food chemicals do, because they have not been chemically engineered to overstimulate taste buds and the brain. So in reality, junk food chemicals are really not much different than drug chemicals in the way they affect the brain (http://www.naturalnews.com/028397_junk_food_...).

Sources for this story include:

http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/health/...

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