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Ice cream 'as addictive as some illegal drugs' - study

We knew it. We just knew it. Eating ice-cream makes the brain want more – but also blunts the pleasure received.

Chocolate ice cream: like heroin, basically.
Chocolate ice cream: like heroin, basically.
Image: stu_spivack via Flickr

A NEW STUDY has suggested that ice cream is not only moreish, but outright addictive – and can leave people with addictions of similar severity as those to illegal drugs.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that the dessert treat possess the same traits as some drugs, where continued use not only makes the body crave the substance even more, it becomes less enjoyable to eat.

This is because the receptors in the brain are “blunted”, perhaps due to the release of lesser levels of dopamine – meaning that people would have to take in higher and higher volumes of ice cream in order to feel the same level of ‘pleasure’.

In the study, detailed in the Daily Telegraph, 151 teenagers aged between 14 and 16 – all of whom were of ‘healthy weight’ before the test – were given varying numbers of chocolate milkshakes made with Häagen Dazs chocolate ice cream.

They later underwent MRI scans while being shown a picture of the same milkshake, and then given a new milkshake to eat. Although everyone was shown to want the milkshake, those who had previously eaten more enjoyed the shake less than others.

This could only have been the result of an ‘addiction’ effect, as the percentage of body fat, total energy intake, and the teenagers’ other diet were not related to the neural response.

The authors claim the results of the study provide “novel evidence that frequent consumption of ice cream, independent of body fat, is related to a reduction in reward-region responsivity in humans, paralleling the tolerance observed in drug addiction”.

Lead author Kyle Burger told the Telegraph that eating too much high fat or high sugar foods seemed to change the way the brain responded to further feeding, and that it began to experience less “reward” as a result.

Read: Social media can be harder to resist than cigarettes – study

More: Chinese study points to possibility of ‘internet addiction’

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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