A new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the brain responds differently to some types of carbohydrates than others — and some sugary foods trigger the same reward mechanisms as drug and alcohol addiction. This is from the New York Daily Post…
In the study, researchers observed the brain activity of 12 overweight or obese men
between the ages of 18 and 35 in the hours after they consumed milkshake meals. The milkshakes were identical in taste as well as calories, nutrients and carbohydrates, but one set of shakes was made with high-glycemic carbs, such as the kind found in white bread, white rice and processed sweets, that spike blood sugar more quickly. The other set contained low-glycemic carbs such as those found in whole wheat bread and brown rice that cause a more gradual rise in blood sugar.
Predictably, when subjects drank the high-glycemic shakes, their blood sugar levels rose more quickly, and several hours later had dipped lower than when they drank the low-glycemic version. They also reported feeling hungrier.
But researchers also noticed substantially more activity in the parts of the brain that regulate reward and craving, the same areas activated in addicts, four hours after the men drank the high-glycemic shakes.
Lead study author Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity research center at Boston Children’s Hospital, said the brain activity may suggest why some people get stuck in a cycle of reaching for — and overeating — sugary, starchy foods.
“Beyond reward and craving, this part of the brain is also linked to substance abuse and dependence, which raises the question as to whether certain foods might be addictive,” Ludwig said in a statement.
“Limiting high-glycemic index carbohydrates like white bread and potatoes could help obese individuals reduce cravings and control the urge to overeat.”
Eating too many high-glycemic foods isn’t good for anyone, but the bigger picture of whether a person can become addicted to food — or to specific type of food like high-glycemic carbs — is more complicated, said Dr. Lisa Young, RD, PhD, adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University.
“I wouldn’t jump so fast to call it addiction, but it’s possible in a certain subset of people,” Young told the Daily News. “There are other factors you need to look at, at the same time. When some people eat a cookie they can’t stop, but other people can stop. You’re dealing with psychological behavior.”