London, March 29 (ANI): Pigging out on junk food is as addictive as taking heroin and cocaine, according to a new research.
In the new study, scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have shown for the first time that the same molecular mechanisms that drive people into drug addiction are behind the compulsion to overeat, pushing people into obesity.
The study has demonstrated clearly that in rat models the development of obesity coincides with a progressively deteriorating chemical balance in reward brain circuitries.
As these pleasure centers in the brain became less and less responsive, rats quickly developed compulsive overeating habits, consuming larger quantities of high-calorie, high-fat foods until they become obese.
The very same changes occurred in the brains of rats that over-consumed cocaine or heroin, and are thought to play an important role in the development of compulsive drug use.
Scripps Research Associate Professor Paul J. Kenny said that the study, which took nearly three years to complete, confirms the 'addictive' properties of junk food.
"It presents the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on the same underlying neurobiological mechanisms. In the study, the animals completely lost control over their eating behavior, the primary hallmark of addiction. They continued to overeat even when they anticipated receiving electric shocks, highlighting just how motivated they were to consume the palatable food," Kenny said.
The new research was published March 28, 2010 in an advance online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience. (ANI)