Junk Food Binges Acts Like Crack On Brain

Overdosing on junk food acts like heroin or crack on the brain, a new study finds.

Researchers fed a control group of rats normal rat food, and the experimental groups got “cafeteria-style” food, “palatable energy-dense food readily available for human consumption.” The experimental group with extended access to the food ate twice as much as the control.

But the real fun happened when the rats couldn’t get their fat and sugar fix:

When we removed the junk food and tried to put them on a nutritious diet – what we called the ‘salad bar option’ – they simply refused to eat,” noted Kenny. “The change in their diet preference was so great that they basically starved themselves for two weeks after they were cut off from junk food. It was the animals that showed the ‘crash’ in brain reward circuitries that had the most profound shift in food preference to the palatable, unhealthy diet. These same rats were also those that kept on eating even when they anticipated being [given an electric shock].

Researchers said signs of addiction and compulsive eating emerged almost immediately after giving the rats the cafeteria food.

“These data are, as far as we know, the strongest support for the idea that overeating of palatable food can become habitual in the same manner and through the same mechanisms as consumption of drugs of abuse,” said the scientists.

The research has important implications for the study and understanding of the obesity crisis. Might we see wash out clinics where overweight patients are given intravenous oatmeal drips until their brain unwires from junk food addiction?

Food addiction: Fat may rewire brain like hard drugs [Food Navigator]

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Edit Your Comment

  1. jdmba says:

    When I have a bad day … only Burger King can snap me out of it (although a Big Mac can be known to do the trick). They know what they are doing here :)

  2. obits3 says:

    Say no to drugs, say yes to things that act like drugs =)

  3. The cake is a lie! says:

    So what if you just binge on crack? Is that the same thing, or worse?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Person A eats a cheeseburger once a day. Person B snorts cracks once a day.

      I think statistically, Person B will die sooner by a large margin.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        “Person A eats a cheeseburger once a day. Person B snorts cracks once a day”

        I do think OP meant, what if person B EATS crack.

      • Alvis says:

        Person B is going to get a stuffed-up nose right quick, snorting crack.

  4. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    “…overeating of palatable food can become habitual”

    Are you suggesting fast food chains start selling “palatable food”?

    I am sure that the Center For Science in the Public Interest (AKA the FOOD NAZIS) will be all over this.

  5. Mr_Human says:

    “Researchers fed a control group normal rat food” – I though you were talking about people at first. . .

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      Yea, I’d be pretty depressed if I was eatin’ yummy stuff and had some moron in a lab coat take it away and serve me rat chow. I mean, have you ever TASTED that stuff?

  6. outis says:

    I may be a bit fuzzy from hitting the Taco Bell too hard, but doesn’t someone come out with these exact same results a few times a year?

    • AngryK9 says:

      It just depends on how hard the pocket stuffing greed hounds in Washington (aka Politicians) are working to blame fat people like me for all of thi world’s problems.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        It’s all your fault.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        Just do what I do. Get in an elevator with them. Not to smart now, Mr. Science Man, now that you’re smushed up against the elevator wall.

  7. Macgyver says:

    Until they do this test on humans, I call BS.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      You’ve obviously never sat down with a bag of salt and pepper potato chips and ranch dip. Anyone who has, would have known this to be fact already. Hence, why I avoid having these foods in my home at all costs.

  8. aloria says:

    “Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released in the brain by pleasurable experiences like food or sex or drugs like cocaine. “

    No duh. You can become addicted to pretty much anything that increases the dopamine in your brain. Sex, food, drugs, obsessively collecting small cat figurines… it all has the same root cause. Saying OMG JUNK FOOD IS JUST LIKE CRACK is dishonest.

  9. FeelinFroggy says:


  10. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Are they sure its fat, and not the chemicals and things in the food?

    • ChuckECheese says:

      Anecdote: I think it’s just the intense amounts of sugar, salt, fat, carbs. I have an unfortunate friend who will binge on any tasty thing set in front of him. He cannot stop until the chip bag is empty, the nut can is empty, or the 4 oz candy bar is all gone. If there is a can and a bag in his reach, then they will both be emptied. Gently encouraging him to eat less, or taking away the bag, can or bar, leads to unpleasantness. It’s behavioral, yet moderated by the fact that these nutrient-dense foods make you feel good, buzzed, numb, warm and fuzzy – more so than does eating a plate of steamed kale. Not so long ago, such piggish behavior was considered poorly mannered, but for some reason, we now consider lack of self-control a disease outside our control.

  11. Sunflower1970 says:

    Yanno, they didn’t need a study for this…I could have told them junk food or anything with sugar or just simple carbs do the same thing to hoomans.

    I cannot eat anything with sugar/HFCS or breads (ie white breads, pasta, etc) without having a reaction that all I want to do is eat all day long. Takes at least 3 days to get that feeling to go away. And I’m miserable and grumpy for those days.

    • Archergal says:

      +1 on this. Husband & I went back on low-carb eating a few weeks ago. Now I no longer want to nibble the whole freaking day. And I’ve lost 8 lbs.

      • AuntieMaim says:

        I just started carb restriction myself, after reading “Good Calories, Bad Calories” (a real eye-opener). I have some kind of blood sugar regulation problem anyway, given my propensity all my life to pass out (or go into a rage, or get shaky and nauseated) approximately 2-3 hours after a meal. I am loving how I feel.

  12. kataisa says:

    It’s proven that junk food is addictive and is the reason why obesity has soared in the past generation. Health problems arising from fast food/obesity will put a strain on our health care system.

    If we can get organized enough to kick the cigarette habit (which worked exactly like fast food: an addictive, unhealthy habit that was marketed to small children to ensure a lifetime consumer of that product) then why can’t we do the same with obesity and put the fast food industry on trial?

    • LadyTL says:

      Sure, it’s all junk food’s fault we are fat. It has nothing to do with society changes to keep kids inside more and playing less actively, nothing to do with wanting more food for less money, nothing to do with parents not wanting to raise their kids and tell them no they can’t have junk food, nothing to do at all with a lack of health education for children and teens. It’s just the food’s fault.

  13. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    My child is this way. If we give her a piece of cake at a party, or candy, she goes nuts and can’t stop talking about having more for days. She seriously acts like an addict out for a hit. It’s awful. As a result, she gets quite a few veggie sticks and fruit as snacks.

    • AuntieMaim says:

      OMG, sounds just like this, which you have to read if you haven’t already: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-of-cake.html


    • LadyTL says:

      So because you kid likes something you think she is addicted? Do you block her from watching any tv shows she likes too? Or take away new toys because she talks about them alot as well?

      • Conformist138 says:

        You have clearly never witnessed a kid do this. It really is creepy. They freak out, not just happy and playfully, but with shaking and insane squeals and screams. It’s totally different from a favorite toy. Anyone seeing it would have the same reaction as sisterfunkhaus: get the junk away from the kid.

        And the answer is yes, you DO take away things kids like if their liking of it is causing behavioral problems or becomes an obsession. “But I like it and I feel happy” is NOT a final argument for getting access to something. If little Billy loves his race car, but then slaps his little sister every time she gets within 2 feet of it, little Billy won’t have a race car for long. If Suzy likes ice cream, but can’t have a dish without then being entirely focused on ice cream for the next week, Suzy isn’t gonna get ice cream very often.

  14. Incident8 says:

    i have to admit that after 3 years smoking I had gained some weight (Nutela is a hell of a spread) but recently (around Sept 6) I started a strict diet of healthy food and was amazed at how much of a similarity there was in the cravings. Admittedly the smoking cravings were deeper and more sever, but that little voice of addiction in your head was using the same tricks.

  15. Eli the Ice Man says:

    Sweet, another excuse everyone can use for not hitting the gym and eating nothing but crap!

    Eat up folks! McDonalds is now backed by SCIENCE!

  16. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I can stop any time I want to.


  17. bigTrue says:

    Since the average cost of carnival or movie theater food is way more than crack, I think I should switch my indulgences to better my budget!

  18. BytheSea says:

    I have said this for years. Every candy holiday since I was a teenager, I would srsly become addicted to the sugar. i’d need more and more to feel normal every day and have headaches when it ran out, and become irritable and tired. I’d feel like I hadn’t really eaten a meal if i didn’t have a dessert of Halloween candy or Easter jelly beans. No one believed me!

  19. haggis for the soul says:

    As someone who used to eat a junk food-rich diet, I can believe it. It took me months of eating no junk and no fast food to get used to, and start craving when hungry, healthy food. I’ve seen otherwise perfectly reasonable people absolutely refuse to give up their unhealthy comfort foods, even at the expense of their health (diabetes, etc.). I know that not everyone eats for emotional reasons and not everyone uses junk food to comfort themselves, but for those who do, it’s a huge struggle. The idea that junk food has an addictive effect on the body does not seem farfetched to me.

  20. banmojo says:

    I like to combine my drugs WITH junk food :^)))


    (of course, I’ve also been known to combine my drugs with my JUNK :^]

  21. banmojo says:

    Enter text…I like to combine my drugs WITH junk food :^)))


    (of course, I’ve also been known to combine my drugs with my JUNK :^]