A study from the Oregon Research Institute adds to previous research findings that found junk food and high fat and sugary foods can become addictive when eaten on a regular basis. The scientists looked at a particular brand of ice cream to investigate the effects it has on the brain.
The study, involving 151 teenagers, found that when ice cream was eaten to excess, the chemicals in the food tampered with the brain’s reward response, reducing the ‘feel good’ boost, making them want more. The participants, aged between 14 and 16, were given chocolate milkshakes made with Häagen Dazs ice cream. During the investigation, researchers questioned the teens on their eating habits and what foods they craved.
Throughout the tests, the participants’ brains were scanned using a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Machine (fMRI), with their responses being measured while they looked at images of milkshakes before they had the real thing. All of the participants wanted to drink the milkshake shown in the picture, but those who ate the most ice cream throughout the process, enjoyed looking at the drink less.
Experts compared this result to how drug addicts feel when, despite their cravings, pleasure from the desired object is blunted in the brain by lower levels of the feel-good chemical, dopamine. The result was that the participants felt like they had to eat more to satisfy their cravings and get the same feeling of euphoria they experienced the first time they ate the ice cream. The researchers felt this paralleled the tolerance observed in drug addiction. “This down-regulation pattern is seen with frequent drug use, where the more an individual uses the drug, the less reward they receive from using it,” Dr Burger, the study’s co-author, told theTelegraph.
While researchers added that it is unlikely to develop a full-blown addiction to ice cream, they believe that ice cream has addictive properties.