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Brain Addicted to Food with High Glycemic Index

Jun 27, 2013 09:15 AM EDT

According to a new study, eating faster-digesting carbohydrates (high glycemic index) may alter brain function make them addicted to certain foods.

The study shows that avoiding carbohydrate-rich foods can help some people lose weight, Dr. David Ludwig the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children's Hospital and lead author of the study.

"This research suggests that based on their effects on brain metabolism, all calories are not alike," he said, according to the New York Times. "Not everybody who eats processed carbohydrates develops uncontrollable food cravings. But for the person who has been struggling with weight in our modern food environment and unable to control their cravings, limiting refined carbohydrate may be a logical first step."

Previous research has shown that a diet high in fat can re-wire a person's brain increasing risk for depression.

In the present study, MRI scans of the participants were taken after people had a meal that had high levels of carbohydrates. Researchers even measured study participants' blood glucose levels during the crucial four-hour period after meals.

The study included 12 people who were either overweight or obese. Participants were given one of two milkshakes which were similar in every aspect, but had different kinds of sugars. One drink had rapidly digesting (high-glycemic index) carbohydrates while the other had slow digesting carbohydrates, according to a news release. 

Results showed that people who consumed faster digesting carbohydrates had high blood sugar levels initially, but low blood sugar levels after four hours. This decrease in sugar levels led to these people feeling excessively hungry. There was also intense activity in nucleus accumbens, a brain region associated with addictive behaviors.

The study is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutritionon.

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