Putting down our favorite comfort foods may be more difficult for some than others. A recent study shows that compulsive food cravings may be the result of brain impulses similar to those found in people who suffer with drug or alcohol addiction. The study used a high-tech scan to examine the brain activity of people who regularly overeat versus those who do not. The results showed that those who overeat displayed increased brain activity in the area known as the reward center when shown a picture of a milkshake.
“These findings support the theory that compulsive food consumption may be driven in part by an enhanced anticipation of the rewarding properties of food,” said Ashley N. Gearhardt, lead author of the study and doctoral student in clinical psychology at Yale University. Gearhardt notes that the overeaters also scored high on a food-addiction scale and needed to consume larger amounts of food to achieve an emotional effect equal to their counterparts. Some of the participants had difficulty thinking about anything other than food. “Some of them actually stop socializing because it gets in the way of their eating,” said Ms. Gearhardt,
In a related article, CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said “What’s really important is that this is [part of] ongoing research [in which] people in the field of psychiatry are actually looking at whether or not people need to qualify food addiction as a real addiction. You can substitute drugs or gambling or smoking to any of the things that we’re gonna talk about.” To gain control over this issue, Ashton says, “The key is to know what your own triggers are and to behaviorally modify those responses. And again, like anything, if you know you’re addicted to smoking, you want to set your environment up so that you don’t find yourself confronted with that. Food is no different. This isn’t the whole picture, but it’s definitely a component of it.”
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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