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  (Source: Times of India)
Now we can finally acknowledge we have a cocoa problem

Perhaps it's time to add chocolate alongside alcohol and tobacco to the lists of legal drugs in America.

A new study by University of Michigan neuroscience student Alexandra DiFeliceantonio chronicles how chocolate locks the rodent brain into a cycle of addiction, joy, and despair, much like other drugs.

She found that during consumption of M&Ms rats produced a naturally occurring (endogenous) opioid-receptor binding compound called enkephalin.  The compound binds to similar reward circuitry as notoriously addictive drugs such as a heroine and morphine.  The enkephalin levels primarily spiked in an inner region of the brain called the neostriatum.

Why is this important?  She explains that this region of the brain is linked to addiction in humans, commenting, "The same brain area we tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes.  It seems likely that our enkephalin findings in rats mean that this neurotransmitter may drive some forms of overconsumption and addiction in people."

Natural genetic variation may lead some people to become more severely addicted to chocolate than others, too, the study indicates.  When dosed with extra enkephalin -- similar to the case of a genetic-based overproduction -- the rodents gobbled down twice as many M&Ms, throwing reserve to the wind.

Rat w/ M&M
Rats show signs of chemical addiction when fed chocolate. [Image Source: Alexandra DiFeliceantonio]

In the human brain, enkephalins have been linked to risky behavior and thoughts of desire.

She writes in the study that the chocolate-triggered compound may be responsible for "generating intense pathological levels of motivation to overconsume."  In other words, maybe that's why you couldn't stop yourself at half your chocolate candy bar or put down that jumbo-sized bag of peanut M&Ms after the suggested serving was consumed.

Chocolate circuitry
Chocolate triggers opioid pathways in the rodent brain. [Image Source: Current Biology]

While some may take news of their chocolate addiction quite badly, Ms. DiFeliceantonio suggests that by better understanding its addictive role on neurochemicals researchers can help people break self-destructive "systems" of overconsumption that exist in the brain.

The new research is published [abstract] in the peer-reviewed journal Current Biology.

Sources: U of M [via Eurekalert], Current Biology



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By RedemptionAD on 9/25/2012 2:06:36 PM , Rating: 3
Part of living in the modern world is that you WILL have an attempt to manipulate your mind on a daily basis through advertisements aka suggestive selling, Political campaigns, or even telemarketers playing with your emotions.

Holding your self accountable means hearing the message comparing it to your moral standards and making a decision. If people are too lazy to do something that simple then they deserve their fate, it is not the governments responsibility to micromanage everyones life. That's what freedom is all about. Government is a macro-managing entity.

As far as obesity is concerned, why don't pharmaceutical companies make a thyroid increasing drug there by turning people that have low metabolism into a normal metabolism or higher than normal metabolism? If a business doesn't want to or can't make it, then the government should step in for the greater good of the country and make it happen. That would eliminate the genetic cause and help in finding the true culprit for the people who are obese.


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