Article: Neurobiology highlights similarities between obesity and drug addiction
- Food Fix
Neurobiology highlights similarities between obesity and drug addiction
It was 1990, and Neal, a 55-year-old salesman from Silver Spring, Md., was hitting rock bottom. For years, he had soothed the stress of his chaotic life with an evening bowl of vanilla ice cream. But in time, that just wasn't enough. Neal started adding a second bowl, then a third. Even after he'd moved on to wolfing down an entire gallon in a single sitting, he soon needed yet a bigger fix. He added doughnuts-one, two, then an entire box.
Neal's not-so-sweet nightly habit eventually blew his weight up to 350 pounds. What he gained in size, he lost in other parts of his life: His marriage fell apart, he lost his job, and he spent his nights wondering whether his persistent chest pain meant that he'd die before morning. As his life spiraled downward, he spoke to a friend who was a recovering alcoholic.
"When he was telling me the story about what he was doing with alcohol, I could see that's what I was doing with food, how I was using it," Neal says. At the time, he says, food seemed like an innocuous fix-it was hard for him to imagine overdosing on ice cream and doughnuts. "But if it wasn't food," he adds, "then it would have been cocaine, heroin, alcohol, or something else for me."
Many people have suspected that addiction underlies much of obesity. In fact, in 1960, an overweight woman started a weight-loss group that used a 12-step program modeled after that of Alcoholics Anonymous. Neal turned to Overeaters Anonymous and has since lost more than 100 pounds. Several other groups use 12-step programs to deal with overeating.
In recent years, scientists have discovered neurological connections between overeating and drug addiction. They've conducted studies showing that the brains of individuals with either of these conditions differ from other people's brains in similar ways. The researchers have also described a few enlightening differences between the brains of overeaters and those of drug abusers.
Understanding the neurological causes of overeating and drug addiction, say the researchers, could lead to new treatments for both conditions.
Full Text at ScienceNews
Robert Karl Stonjek
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