A new study conducted by scientists at the Scripps Research InstituteÂ sheds light on another possible contributing factor to the obesity epidemic in the United States.
It found that the brains of junk food consumers crave unhealthy and fattening food in the same way that addicts desire highly addictive drugs such as heroine and cocaine.
The study, "Addiction-Like Reward Dysfunction and Compulsive Eating in Obese Rats: Role for Dopamine D2 Receptors,"Â was published yesterday in the online science journal Nature Neuroscience.
Researchers offered a group of rats a variety of food, modeled after a human diet that would strongly contribute to obesity -- namely, food that is cheap, readily available, and high in both calories and fat.
This food was available for up to 23 hours of the day. A control group of rats was offered healthy food.
Your Junk Food "Fix"
The study found that the rats who consumed the junk food craved it exponentially more over time and in higher quantities.
And when the researchers attempted to ween the rats off of their calorie and fat filled junk food diet, the rats rejected the comparatively less palatable, healthier food options. The rats chose to abstain from food consumption all together until offered the junk food once more.
The researchers found that the desire to eat junk food by fast food consumers is equivalent to the neurological craving for a drug "fix" by drug addicts, a major obstacle facing efforts to address the obesity problem in the U.S. and reform the way Americans eat.
- Junk Food Jones Is Wired In Your Brain (NPR.org)
- The Scripps Research Institute's press release on the study