5 March, 2012
Ice cream as 'addictive as drugs' says new study
Everyone knowns ice cream is moreish - but new research indicates it may actually be addictive.
A study suggests that ice cream leaves people feeling addicted in the same way as a person using illegal drugs.
American researchers concluded that human cravings for the dessert were similar to those experienced by drug addicts.
The brain, they found, is left wanting more while eating ice cream in the same way as person who regularly uses cocaine.
Their study, published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, appears to add weight to previous studies that people can be left feeling "addicted" to some foods.
Dr Kyle Burger, from the Oregon Research Institute, in Eugene, about 110 miles south of Portland, said overeating "high-fat" or "high-sugar" foods appeared to change how the brain responded and in turn downgraded the mental "reward".
"This down-regulation pattern is seen with frequent drug use, where the more an individual uses the drug, the less reward they receive from using it," said Dr Burger, the study's co-author.
"This tolerance is thought to increase use, or eating, because the individual trying to achieve the previous level of satisfaction.
“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."
He added: "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."
In their study, 151 teenagers, aged 14 and 16, were fed real chocolate milkshakes made with Häagen Dazs ice cream.
The researchers had already conducted interviews with the teenagers, all of whom were of "healthy weight", about their recent eating habits and how much they craved certain foods.
Their brains were then scanned with a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Machine (fMRI) while being shown a picture of a milkshake before being given a physical shake.
The study found that all the participants wanted the real shake but those who ate the most ice cream over the previous few weeks enjoyed it less.
Dr Burger explained that this was the same reaction that a drug addict felt, because despite increased cravings, pleasure that should be sent to the brain was being blunted.
This, he said, was possibly due to the brain releasing lower levels of the chemical dopamine.
When they analysed the fMRI scans, the study found the teenagers who had eaten the most ice cream had experienced a similar effect. As a result, they felt they had to eat more to enjoy the same feelings of euphoria.
"You could be continually trying to match the earlier experience," he told The Daily Telegraph. This, he added, would lead to bigger portion and weight gain.
While it was unlikely that people became “addicted to ice cream per se”, the findings appeared to suggest that ice cream had "addictive-like properties", he added.
“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,” he said.
“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’.”
But Dr Burger said the findings also provided further explanation to why people become fat from ice cream. It adds to previous studies that linked junk food and addiction.
He said his study was a small piece amid a growing body of literature “regarding the neural consequences of overeating”.
“Repeated consumption of these types of foods also can provide excess calories,” he said.
“This could mean that high-fat or high-sugar food contributes to unhealthy weight gain in two ways, altering the brain while providing excess calories.”
He said more research was needed because the assessment of the brain responses to only one on food item and the reliance on self-reported intake.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9118768/Ice-cream-as-addictive-as-drugs-says-new-study.html
Frequent ice cream consumption is associated with reduced striatal response to receipt of an ice cream–based milkshake 1,2,3
Kyle S Burger and Eric Stice
Background: Weight gain leads to reduced reward-region responsivity to energy-dense food receipt, and consumption of an energy-dense diet compared with an isocaloric, low-energy-density diet leads to reduced dopamine receptors. Furthermore, phasic dopamine signaling to palatable food receipt decreases after repeated intake of that food, which collectively suggests that frequent intake of an energy-dense food may reduce striatal response to receipt of that food.
Objective: We tested the hypothesis that frequent ice cream consumption would be associated with reduced activation in reward-related brain regions (eg, striatum) in response to receipt of an ice cream–based milkshake and examined the influence of adipose tissue and the specificity of this relation.
Design: Healthy-weight adolescents (n = 151) underwent fMRI during receipt of a milkshake and during receipt of a tasteless solution. Percentage body fat, reported food intake, and food craving and liking were assessed.
Results: Milkshake receipt robustly activated the striatal regions, yet frequent ice cream consumption was associated with a reduced response to milkshake receipt in these reward-related brain regions. Percentage body fat, total energy intake, percentage of energy from fat and sugar, and intake of other energy-dense foods were not related to the neural response to milkshake receipt.
Conclusions: Our results provide novel evidence that frequent consumption of ice cream, independent of body fat, is related to a reduction in reward-region responsivity in humans, paralleling the tolerance observed in drug addiction. Data also imply that intake of a particular energy-dense food results in attenuated reward-region responsivity specifically to that food, which suggests that sensory aspects of eating and reward learning may drive the specificity.http://www.ajcn.org/content/early/2012/02/14/ajcn.111.027003.abstract?sid=f3346981-8418-472e-a9e2-98fd4e6346aa