Drugs Reward And Alter Brain- How About Overeating?

in medicine, biology

If you've ever wondered why it's hard to stay on a diet, consider this observation from Ralph DiLeone, a brain scientist at Yale University: "The motivation to take cocaine in the case of a drug addict is probably engaging similar circuits that the motivation to eat is in a hungry person."

That's what brain scientists have concluded after comparing studies of overeating with studies of drug addiction, DiLeone says.

They've also found that, at least in animals, sweet or fatty foods can act a lot like a drug in the brain, he says. And there's growing evidence that eating too much of these foods can cause long-term changes in the brain circuits that control eating behavior.

The food-drug link comes from the fact that both animal and human brains include special pathways that make us feel good when we eat, and really good when we eat sweet or fatty foods with lots of calories, DiLeone says.

"Drug addiction is really hijacking some of these pathways that evolved to promote food intake for survival reasons," he says

That doesn't necessarily mean food is addictive the way cocaine is, DiLeone says, but he says there is growing evidence that eating a lot of certain foods early in life can alter your brain the way drugs do.

Read More at NPR.org

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