March 28, 2010
Junk Food Addictive In Rats

Obese rats addicted to junk food show the same changes in brain reward circuits as rats addicted to cocaine or heroin.

JUPITER, FL, March 23, 2010 –In a newly published study, scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have shown for the first time that the same molecular mechanisms that drive people into drug addiction are behind the compulsion to overeat, pushing people into obesity.

Think of all those rats eating out of dumpsters behind McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Carl's Jr, Quiznos (yummy bread btw), and other purveyors of addictive substances. Those rats are probably suffering social ostracism in the larger rat community, shunned due to their appearance. Plus, they are suffering from type 2 insulin resistant diabetes. They need help.

Cocaine, heroin, hamburgers, 5 topping pizzas, its all the same in the brain.

The study goes significantly further than the abstract, however, demonstrating clearly that in rat models the development of obesity coincides with a progressively deteriorating chemical balance in reward brain circuitries. As these pleasure centers in the brain become less and less responsive, rats quickly develop compulsive overeating habits, consuming larger quantities of high-calorie, high-fat foods until they become obese. The very same changes occur in the brains of rats that overconsume cocaine or heroin, and are thought to play an important role in the development of compulsive drug use.

Clearly people addicted to junk food need to be isolated for 2 weeks in a treatment center. The Betty Ford Center should diversify into junk food addiction treatment.

"They always went for the worst types of food," Kenny said, "and as a result, they took in twice the calories as the control rats. When we removed the junk food and tried to put them on a nutritious diet – what we called the 'salad bar option' – they simply refused to eat. The change in their diet preference was so great that they basically starved themselves for two weeks after they were cut off from junk food. It was the animals that showed the "crash" in brain reward circuitries that had the most profound shift in food preference to the palatable, unhealthy diet. These same rats were also those that kept on eating even when they anticipated being shocked."

But much goes unsaid. Once those rats finished going thru junk food withdrawal were they able to put their lives back together, reconcile with their families, and stay away from double cheese burgers with large fries? Or were they such hopeless cases that the scientists killed them to dissect their brains?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 March 28 01:55 PM  Brain Addiction

kurt9 said at March 28, 2010 2:08 PM:

Junk food is addictive. At least with me, it is. It has a sweet taste that makes you crave it more and more. You eat a fast-food burger, for example, and you want one again the next day. I avoid fast food like the plague. If I have to eat fast food (for example, in airports or when traveling) I eat sandwiches (Subway, Quiznos, etc.) instead. I avoid regular fast food like the plague because it is so addictive.

random said at March 29, 2010 8:26 AM:

Cocaine works pretty well for weaning yourself off a junk food addiction. The decreased appetite and increased metabolism from cocaine can lead to some dramatic weight loss.

Randall when did you become such a satirist?

B.B. said at March 29, 2010 1:34 PM:

The food P.C. crowd hits again.

"Junk food" is overwhelming carbohydrates, especially simple carbs like sugar and flour. There is plenty of medical evidence that diets high in carbos, especially simple carbs, are very fattening, harm health, and are addictive.

The food policy want to crack down on fat, but they need to crack down carbos.

But PETA and the New York Times are no about to recommend that people get trimmer on steaks, grilled chicken, ham, eggs, and butter. Go ahead and get the sausage, just skip the bun.

Recommended science reading: "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Taub.

th said at March 29, 2010 4:38 PM:

Has anyone seen anyone in the media screaming with the usual infectious disease fervor over obama's smoking?

PacRim Jim said at March 30, 2010 12:25 AM:

Ummmm, junk food. Ummmmm, rats.

Stan Adams said at May 21, 2011 1:35 AM:

A truly inspiring article that gives me a lot of respect for all the people working in junk removal San Jose, especially the ones covering the McDonald's area. I wonder if the alley cats who ate the obese junk-food junkie rats became addicted themselves to junk food.

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