Thursday, April 7. 2011
Addictive eating behavior is linked with similar brain activity patterns that encourage substance dependence, according a new Yale University study.
The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, is the first to connect symptoms of food addiction with specific patterns of brain activity in both obese and lean participants. The study involved 48 healthy adolescent women with body types ranging from thin to obese, all of whom completed the Yale Food Addiction Scale, which applies diagnostic criteria for substance dependence to eating behavior. Furthermore, researchers used brain-imaging procedures to examine how food addiction symptoms related with the women's brain activity in response to food-related tasks.
Both thin and heavy participants who had higher food addiction scores exhibited different brain activity patterns than those with lower scores. For instance, when anticipating the receipt of food, those with higher scores experienced more activity in the regions of the brain responsible for food cravings, but less in the part that inhibits urges. Scientists say this is the same neurological process seen in drug addicts, who struggle with cravings and may not be able to regulate consumption.
Experts have long since noticed a connection between food addiction and substance abuse. In fact, Overeaters Anonymous, a recovery program for compulsive eaters, uses the same 12-step program employed by organizations such as Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous to beat the addiction.
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