Habitual Overeating is Similar to Drug Addiction

By Staff Writer

Obese individuals may struggle with many of the same uncontrollable urges that drug addicts do, according to new research from the University of Pennsylvania.

The reason for this may be that food affects the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain as do drugs. Habitual overeating may cause individuals to become accustomed to stimulation of these areas, driving them to continue to overeat.

For the study, researchers fed a group of mice large amounts of high-fat food. After 20 weeks, investigators discovered that the overfed mice had major changes in the pleasure and reward centers of their brains. These changes made them less responsive to fatty food, which meant that they had to eat larger quantities to experience the same level of stimulation.

Researchers told NPR that this process is nearly identical to what happens in drug addiction. Obese individuals who habitually overeat may benefit from therapy offered from rehab facilities, which can help them overcome their impulse control problems.