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Some foods may be addictive - science

Changing the types of food you eat can alter brain activity and make you less likely to overeat a new study says.

Image: Eliza Adam via Flickr/Creative Commons

HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS could be addictive, new research in the US has found.

In new brain imaging research carried out at Boston Children’s Hospital, a team led by David Ludwig, MD, PhD, found that limiting these “high-glycemic index” foods could help obese individuals avoid overeating.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, studied the link between food intake and the brain’s pleasure centres.

Dr Ludwig is the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center and says that the addiction can be similar to substance addiction.

“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.”

In the study, researchers measured blood glucose levels and hunger, as well as brain activity in the four hours after a meal. This time period influences behaviour  at the next meal.

Twelve overweight or obese men each drank one of two test meals, served as milkshakes. The milkshakes were identical in terms of taste, texture and calories, but one was rapidly digesting (high-glycemic) and one was slowly digesting (low-glycemic).

Those who ate the high-glycemic milkshake experienced a sugar rush followed by a sharp crash. This led to increased hunger at the next meal.

Dr Ludwig says that the results show that limiting high-glycemic foods could reduce cravings for food.

These findings suggest that limiting high-glycemic index carbohydrates like white bread could help obese individuals reduce cravings and control the urge to overeat.

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