Frequent consumption of high-calorie foods may affect pleasure gained, study finds

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 6th March 2012

A new US study suggests that frequent consumption of high-calorie foods such as ice-cream, can have drug-like affects on the brain.

Scientists at the Oregon Research Institute in the United States, claim the results of their study show that frequent consumption of ice-cream is related to a reduction in ‘reward-region responsivity’ in humans and reduced dopamine receptors, paralleling the tolerance observed in drug addicts.

Dopamine plays a major role in the part of the brain responsible for reward-driven learning. A variety of highly addictive drugs, including stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, act directly on the dopamine system.

Their study involved 151 American teenagers aged between 14 and 16 years of age who were in a healthy weight range. The participants were shown a cartoon of a milkshake whilst an MRI machine measured their brain activity.

Those who reported eating the most ice-cream over the preceding few weeks registered lower activity in their brain reward centres when viewing the milkshake cartoon.

The study’s lead author, Kyle S Burger said, “We have shown through the study that frequent ice-cream consumption is associated with a reduced response in these reward-related brain regions.”