If you are struggling to lose weight and can’t stop eating junk food then it may be because you are addicted according to a new survey.
A study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, has found that certain types of junk food have the same effect on the brain as Class A drugs, which could explain why many people are simply unable to give up the sugary or fatty foods that are preventing them from losing weight successfully.
The research found that foods that were high in saturated fats increase reward seeking behaviour, a trait often found in drug addicts who find themselves having to increase their dosages over time to have the same effect.
Many processed foods are high in saturated fats and the list of foods that they are found in top the lists of foods to avoid when trying to lose weight. Some foods with saturated fat include butter, cakes, cheese, cream and bacon.
During the study, the researchers used two groups of mice and fed one of the groups a diet which was high in the good monounsaturated fats while the other group of mice were given a diet high in saturated fats.
The mice were allowed to eat as much food as they liked over an eight week period and at the end of the study it was found that while both of the groups had the same weight levels, the behaviour of the mice was what made them different.
In the group that had high saturated fats the dopamine function, responsible for the motivation and reward system in the brain, was found to have been “blunted”.
Study author Cecile Hryhorczuk, of the University of Montreal in Canada, said: ‘Our research group and others hypothesise that this leads the brain to try to compensate by heightening reward-seeking behaviour.
‘This is much like the phenomenon of drug tolerance where one has to increase the drug dose over time to get the same high.
She went on to explain: ‘So, a person consuming too much saturated fat may then compensate a reduced reward experience by seeking out and consuming more high-fat and high-sugar foods to get the same level of pleasure or reward.’
Co-author, Professor Stephanie Fulton, said: ‘Our research shows that independent of weight gain and obesity, high-fat feeding can cause impairments in the functioning of the brain circuitry profoundly implicated in mood disorders, drug addiction, and over-eating.
‘Another key finding is that the effects of prolonged high-fat feeding to dampen the sensitivity of this brain reward system are specific to saturated fats – palm oil used in this study – but not monounsaturated fat such as the olive oil used in this study.’