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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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RE: Not a pure test of chocolate...
By bah12 on 9/25/2012 5:37:26 PM , Rating: 2
There are also clearly genetic links to obesity that some people are cursed to endure. Not everything is as black and white as making a personal choice.
I call BS. I've known at least a dozen or so obese people that have gotten a stomache reduction. Most for years blamed "genetics" or "thyroid problems". Then low an behold they got too fat to operate in normal society and broke down and got the surgurey (usually covered by isurance funded by us healthy people mind you). Low and behold they lost the weight. Why? Because all these people plauged by so called bad genetics, still lost weight when they physically couldn't keep stuffing their face. Fact is they simply lacked the willpower to quit eating more than their body could use.

I'll grant you that some have a genetic disposition to hold on to the weight eaisier, but ANYONE can lose it if they just eat less. Is it harder for some, sure.

By SeeManRun on 9/25/2012 8:01:51 PM , Rating: 2
I am not sure if anyone claimed that if you starved them (which is what a stomach reduction does without feeling starved) they would lose weight. There must be something to the fact that some people are fat, and some people are not rather than just being undisciplined or lazy. There were big people 60 years ago too, but with today's diets those same people are huge now, while the average person is about the size of that big person 60 years ago.

They are also starting to link chemicals to your bodies ability to absorb calories, and of course the more processed your food is, the more you absorb from it, contributing to the problem.

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