Skip to comments.Chocolate Cake: The New Heroin?
Posted on 11/15/2009 6:45:13 AM PST by neverdem
High anxiety. Rats "addicted" to sugary food spent less time on the open parts of this maze.
Credit: Pietro Cottone
If you're constantly starting new diets, then breaking them, you may have more in common with a drug addict than you know. A new study suggests that yo-yo dieters experience the same stressful pangs of withdrawal when they go on a diet that addicts experience when they go cold turkey.
The idea that bad food can be addictive is not new. But previous studies have tended to focus on the positive reinforcement side of the equation--for example, the pleasurable "rush" you get from eating chocolate cake. "This is just part of the story," says Pietro Cottone, a neuroscientist at Boston University and a co-author of the new study, which was conducted at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. The brain also has a negative reinforcement system that causes anxiety and stress during withdrawal. Rather than doing drugs for the rush, he says, addicts do drugs to relieve the stress associated with withdrawal. Dieters often follow the same pattern of abstinence and relapse as drug addicts, so Cottone and his colleagues wanted to see whether the same brain circuitry might be involved.
The researchers gave one group of rats unlimited access to regular rat food for 5 days, followed by 2 days of sugary, chocolate-flavored rat chow. ("They like it a lot," says Cottone.) The team repeated this cycle for 7 weeks and compared the rats' food intake and behavior with that of a control group of rats that had access only to standard chow.
The control rats ate roughly the same amount of food every day, but the rats in the experimental group did not: When the junk food arrived, they pigged out. By the fifth week, the experimental rats were eating roughly 20% more food when they had access to chocolate chow than rats in the control group ate. And when it was replaced with normal food, they ate less normal food, approximately 30% less by week 5. As the study progressed, the effect became stronger. What's more, the rats going through chocolate-chow withdrawal spent less time in the exposed parts of a specially designed maze, a measure of increased anxiety. When the chocolate chow was returned, the anxiety disappeared.
The researchers suspected that the anxiety was the result of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), a hormone involved in the brain's stress response. Previous studies have shown that this molecule plays a role in drug and alcohol withdrawal. Indeed, when the researchers gave the rats a drug to block their CRF receptors, the animals ate less chocolate chow and more normal chow. They also experienced less withdrawal-associated anxiety. Further experiments revealed that the rats expressed five times more CRF during their withdrawal periods than during their binge periods.
This is the first time the CRF system has been implicated in food addiction, offering a potential drug target, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Drugs to block CRF receptors in the brain are currently being developed.
"This is a brilliant study," says Markus Heilig, a psychiatrist at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, Maryland, who has studied the role of CRF in alcohol addiction. "[Intermittent] dieting is not a good idea, this would seem to indicate." In fact, Heilig says, the study suggests that long-term serial dieting may be driving the biology of the brain into a state in which an individual will experience increased cravings for junk food. Whether you're talking about alcohol, drugs, or even junk food, he says, the more times you relapse, the more stress you feel during withdrawal, and the harder it is to stay on the wagon. "That is the vicious circle," says Heilig.
Chocolate/cocoa is a distraction, and too much sweet garbage from carbhydrates in the diet is the real culprit, IMHO.
.... When they pry it from my cold, dead, gooey-chocolate-covered hands....
Everyone knows that the old sayings”to much of a good thing”, were said for a reson.
When Americans and others used COMMON SENSE, everyone knew that sweets were to only be a special treat. NOT a stapple of your diet.
Chocolate is not a drug. It’s one of the basic, necessary food groups.
You will take chocolate...from my cold dead fingers!
NOT a stapple of your diet.
I always knew there was a name for an apple on a stick!
“Chocolate is not a drug. Its one of the basic, necessary food groups.”
Yep! Every woman knows that.
What? . . . . . What? . . . . . What?
So what are you saying?
Funny how this comes out during the healthcare takeover. Guess what they'll be taxing/regulating under 0bamacare.
Should there not have been a 3rd group - one that was given, after the normal food, a choice of normal or sweet?
With only a choice of the less nutritious sweet food, might they have eaten more to get the nutrition? (I have a little 'house mouse' now 5 yrs old. As long as he has a choice, he will pass up the 'bad' food for the 'good' stuff. He's loves Brussels Sprouts and dandelion - and salted pumpkin seeds and cashews.)
Anyway, if they're serious about discovering why someone yo-yo's, study Oprah.
Good grief. She has all the money in the world. She can/does hire the best of personal chefs - and she still can't keep the weight off more'n a week.
The people at Overeaters Anonymous have known about this stress for a long time. They just don’t have any chemical solution for it. They have to do it the hard way— by building character to resist the cycle. Unfortunately, because it’s hard, a lot of people don’t succeed in getting the better of this self-destructive pattern.
A prayer for struggling obese people might help, if you can spare it.
My son (at age 9) did a science project. We got 4 mice and built a maze for them. Two of them we fed “mouse food” (the approved stuff!) But the other two we fed junk food (Cheetos, M&Ms, etc). We let them mess around in the maze once a week. A few weeks later, we had MANY more mice in the two control groups, so got a lot more data. The amazing conclusion from the data was that the mice eating the junk food had MUCH slower times through the little maze. We actually demonstrated what this author is talking about above in “kid’s” experiment. A lot of fun, great father/son project, and some pretty amazing results. It also gave my son and I some second thoughts about junk food.
Forget the chocolate CAKE, I’m into mainlining it directly from a Hershey w/almonds bar!
“...I need a fix, cause I’m goin’ down...”
“Dad is Great!!! He gives us chocolate cake!!!”
Oh, and (/sarc) for the slow freepers.
“Save the earth. It’s the only planet with chocolate.”