WASHINGTON (Reuters) — People who say they are addicted to chocolate or pizza may not be exaggerating, U.S.-based scientists said Tuesday.
A brain scan study of normal, hungry people showed their brains lit up when they saw and smelled their favorite foods in much the same way as the brains of cocaine addicts when they think about their next snort.
“Food presentation significantly increased metabolism in the whole brain (by 24 percent) and these changes were largest in superior temporal, anterior insula, and orbitofrontal cortices,” they wrote.
These areas are associated with addiction.
An estimated 30 percent of Americans are obese, meaning they have a body mass index of more than 30. This ratio of height to weight usually works out to being about 30 pounds overweight for a woman and 35 to 40 pounds overweight for a man.
Wang and colleagues studied 12 men and women with an average age of 28. The volunteers fasted for just under a day and then underwent positron emission tomography, or PET scans, which measure brain metabolism.
They were asked to describe their favorite foods and how they like to eat them while they were presented with some of those foods.
“A cotton swab impregnated with the food was placed in their tongues so they could taste it,” the researchers wrote.
“The favorite food items most frequently selected by the subjects were bacon-egg-cheese sandwich, cinnamon bun, pizza, hamburger with cheese, fried chicken, lasagna, barbecue, ice cream, brownie, and chocolate cake.”
Several leading addiction experts worked on the report including Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.