Your Brain Doesn't Know the Difference Between Ice Cream and CrackS

We all joke about being addicted to dessert or salt or various other vices, but in the case of ice cream, one new study has shown that it actually does share some characteristics with drugs. It sets off the pleasure centers of our brain in the same way, but it's also now clear that when you eat a lot of ice cream, you become desensitized to its pleasures—just like you do with drugs, or so I have heard.

It's been known for some time that drugs, over time, induce less and less pleasure in an addict's brain, which leads them to crave more and more of it. And to establish the same depressing pattern with ice cream, researchers Kyle S. Burger and Eric Stice, of the Oregon Research Institute, surveyed 151 teens who were in a healthy weight range about their eating habits and food cravings. They then scanned them in an fMRI machine while showing them a cartoon of a milkshake, which measured craving. They then gave them a real milkshake to eat while they were being scanned. The kids who'd reported eating the most ice cream over the past few weeks registered lower activity in their reward centers from the milkshake, meaning they didn't enjoy its creamy deliciousness as much.

Burger explains the danger in this, "Over consumption of these foods down regulates reward processes. That may, in turn, make you eat more." It's the old trying to recapture the rush you once got from ice cream routine. With food, that often means consuming larger and larger portions, which obviously has an impact on weight. And weight gain, too, can change your brain. (Though these kids weren't overweight, so it didn't play a role in this study.) Grrrr.

Burger won't go all the way toward saying ice cream is addictive, but he will say, "[E]nergy-dense food, high sugar food, can elicit neural responses during consumption that parallel those seen in drug addiction. So it has addictive-like properties." Tomato, tomahto. The point is that eating loads of ice cream (and probably a lot of other things) can mess with your brain. Sure, we could attempt to be moderate in our consumption and not dull our delicious dessert senses, but what's the fun in that? Bring on the pints and let's go down in a blaze of glory—and then we'll all meet up in a few years at an Ice Cream 12-step program.

Can you get addicted to ice cream? Maybe, study shows [MSNBC]

Image via Elke Dennis/Shutterstock.