You probably won’t want to read this if you are a lover of ice cream? Why? Because new research is finding that it’s likely the result of an addiction, one that’s very similar in contrast to the addiction that drug users develop.
That’s what researchers from the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene found after conducting a study that compared certain foods and the brain’s response with addictive drugs. What they deduced was that once you are done consuming ice cream, it leaves the brain desiring more, much in the same way that those who use cocaine would desire more.
The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It concluded that people can be left feeling addicted to certain foods like ice cream and chocolate. The primary culprits are fatty and sugary foods that give the brain a mental reward. Once the food has been consumed, the pleasure centers of the brain crave more, in a very similar fashion to how they would crave more drugs.
“This tolerance is thought to increase use, or eating, because the individual trying to achieve the previous level of satisfaction,” the study said. “Repeated, overconsumption of high-fat or high-sugar foods may alter how the brain responds to those foods in a way that perpetuates further intake. The data supports the theory that overeating such foods may result in changes in how the brain responds to those foods in a similar fashion seen in drug addiction.”
The study followed 141 teenagers, who consumed chocolate milkshakes made with real ice cream. All participants were of healthy weight and had normal eating habits. After consumption, their brains were scanned using a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Machine (fMRI). The study found that the participants craved the shakes more over the weeks that followed, but were less fulfilled by consumption.
After further analysis, the participants had to eat more of the ice cream to get the same level of joy from it. The researchers said that this was the result of the brain releasing less dopamine, similar to how it would with habitual drug users.
“Some individuals may frequently eat ice cream or other high-fat/high-sugar foods and show no characteristics of addiction, while others may develop an addictive like relationship with food,” the researchers concluded.
Don’t worry, not everyone will become addicted.
“Some people will try smoking, drinking or gambling, but not develop an addiction. We often joke and say ‘I wouldn’t say food is addictive, but I hear some people can’t live without it’,” they said.