Study suggests you can be addicted to chocolate

By Karen Willmer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Brain

Scientists from the University of Oxford claim they have found
similarities in brain activity between those addicted to drugs and
those addicted to chocolate.

The study, published in the European Journal of Neuroscience,​ examined the brain responses of those addicted to chocolate when they saw or ate chocolate, in order to understand behavioural choices and what drives people to eat certain foods. The government is raising awareness about the rising obesity crisis, and consumers are demanding healthier versions of foods. However, studies such as this may reveal the reasons behind failing diet plans, as well as what encourages consumers to purchase certain products. "Understanding individual differences in brain responses to very pleasant foods helps in the understanding of the mechanisms that drive the liking for specific foods and thus intake of those foods,"​ said the researchers. The study used MRI scans to focus on the hedonic effects of chocolate in cravers and non-cravers in the orbitofrontal cortex, ventral striatum and pregenual cingulated cortex regions of the brain. These areas of the brain have been proven to be involved in those with drug addictions. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that there are differences between cravers and non-cravers in their responses to the sensory components of a craved food, and that the differences are related to the subjective pleasantness of the craved foods,"​ the researchers said. The scientists used various combinations of liquid chocolate and pictures of both light and dark chocolate versus a condensed milk comparison, in order to test the effects of taste and sight on the subjects. "The findings underlie the importance of conditioned cues, such as the sight of chocolate, in producing different effects in different individuals,"​ the study claims. Although the BMI of the subjects were the same throughout the study, the researchers said the study has shown people react differently to craved foods, related to their liking and the amount eaten. "These brain differences are likely to be important for understanding not only how different people respond to highly palatable foods, but also how these differences are related to food choice, food craving and the amount of specific foods eaten by different individuals,"​ the researchers concluded. Source: European Journal of Neuroscience​ Vol 26 pp 1067-1076, 2007 "Enhanced affective brain representations of chocolate in cravers vs non-cravers"​Authors: ET Rolls and C McCabe

Related topics: R&D, Chocolate

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