Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up


May 23, 2002 -- Just seeing and smelling food triggers an increase in a brain chemical that makes you hungry. It's the same signal that makes drug addicts want more drugs, suggesting that this may be the mechanism behind food addiction, a new study shows.

The signal is dopamine, a powerful brain chemical that lies at the heart of addiction. Dopamine is an important part of the brain's pleasure and reward machinery.

Addictive drugs increase brain levels of dopamine. Compared with normal people, addicts have fewer dopamine receptors -- the pleasure switch that high levels of dopamine flips on (to heighten the feelings of pleasure and reward.) Studies at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory show that obese people also have few dopamine receptors.

Now a research team led by Brookhaven's Nora Volkow, MD, finds that people don't actually have to eat to get a surge of dopamine. It happens when they just see, smell, and have a tiny taste of food. This makes them even hungrier.

The study is published in the June 1 issue of the journal Synapse.

"Eating is a highly reinforcing behavior, just like taking drugs," Volkow says in a news release. "This is the first time anyone has shown that the dopamine system can be triggered by food when there is no pleasure associated with it, since the subjects don't eat the food. This provides us with new clues about the mechanisms that lead people to eat other than just for pleasure. This may help us understand why some people overeat."

WebMD Health News

Healthy Recipe Finder

Browse our collection of healthy, delicious recipes, from WebMD and Eating Well magazine.

Top searches: Chicken, Chocolate, Salad, Desserts, Soup

Heart Rate Calculator

Ensure you're exercising hard enough to get a good workout, but not strain your heart.

While you are exercising, you should count between...