Study Finds That Milkshakes Can Trigger the Same Reaction as Drugs

Can food be addictive in the same way that, say, heroin is addictive? It's a question that researchers have puzzled over for years. A new study published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggests that the parallels are strong, and that willpower alone isn't sufficient to keep certain people from overeating:

A new study suggests that people who struggle to say no to chocolate, french fries or other junk food suffer from something more insidious than lack of willpower: They may actually have an addiction.

Using a high-tech scan to observe the brains of pathological eaters versus normal eaters, the study found that showing a milkshake to the abnormal group was akin to dangling a cold beer in front of an alcoholic.

Previous studies have shown that food photographs can activate the brain's reward centers in much the way that booze imagery does for alcoholics. This study from Yale University researchers purports to be the first to distinguish so-called food addicts from overeaters.

Before subjecting 39 women to magnetic resonance imaging scans, researchers asked them to complete the 26-question Yale Food Addiction Scale, a two-year-old test designed to identify pathological eaters. Fifteen of the women scored high on the test for addictive-like eating behaviors. When placed inside an MRI machine, those 15 women had dramatically greater neurological responses to the image of a milkshake than the others, according to the study, published online this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.

Presented by

Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Health

Just In