A new study from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity suggests that a chocolate milkshake and a line of cocaine might not be so different.
The study, published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that addictions to food and drugs result in similar activity in the brain.
"This past year we got interested in the idea of food addiction and the neural process," said lead researcher Ashley Gearhardt, a clinical psychology doctoral student at Yale University. "We just wanted to get down and deep into whether people really experience food addiction."
The study included 48 women with an average age of 21 who ranged from lean to obese. They took a test developed at the Rudd Center to measure food addiction, based on an established test for measuring drug addiction. The test includes statements such as, "I find that when I start eating certain foods, I end up eating much more than I had planned," and respondents rate how closely the statements match their own experiences.
With functional magnetic resonant imaging (fMRI), a brain imaging procedure, the researchers examined brain activity when the subjects were shown, and then drank, a chocolate milkshake. The results were compared with the subjects' brain's response to the anticipation and consumption of a tasteless solution.