Ice cream is not a controlled substance - at least, not yet. A new study found that women with intense cravings for it and other highly processed foods show brain activity similar to that of a drug addict in need of a fix.
Might As Well Face It, I'm Addicted To Food
Women who participated in the study were self-identified as having problems with controlling consumption of certain foods. They started out by answering a questionnaire about their eating habits. The questions were slightly modified versions of ones asked to patients in drug recovery programs, like "When certain foods are not available, I will go out of my way to obtain them."
Then, they were shown images of chocolate milkshakes. Their brain activity was scanned, and researchers discovered that the photos triggered responses similar to drug addicts considering their next high. This activity was only noted in women who identify themselves as feeling dependent or addicted to certain foods.
After being shown the picture, the women were given a taste of the shake. Researchers found very little action in the part of the brain associated with "rewards." This suggests that compulsive overeating may be tied to an imbalance of certain brain chemicals.
The problem is exaggerated with processed foods, since they are so quickly digested. The most common culprits for this type of reaction: chocolate, ice cream, pizza and chips. These foods are all often enriched with extra sugar and fat to make them taste better.
- Addiction to food, drugs similar in the brain (CNN Health)