'Emotional Eating' Like Drug Craving
Brain Study: Desire to Eat in Obese People Similar to Drug Craving in Addicts
Oct. 2, 2006 -- Obese people's desire to eat triggers the same brain action
as addicts' desire for drugs, say researchers at Brookhaven National
The finding is based on seven morbidly obese people treated for up to two
years with a gastric stimulator. The implanted device makes the stomach expand
by giving tiny electric jolts to the vagus nerve. This, say Gene-Jack Wang, MD,
and colleagues, signals the brain to make a person feel less hungry.
The seven study participants lost an average 11.6% of their original body
weight. At the time of the study, six of the seven still weighed at least 5%
less than they used to.
When the device is turned on, Wang and colleagues now report, it stimulates
a part of the brain linked to emotional eating -- that is, eating to soothe
emotional distress. The participants reported less desire for emotional eating
when the device was turned on.
"The brain regions activated by gastric stimulation overlap with those
reported during craving responses in addicted subjects, supporting the
commonalities in the [brain circuits] that underlie compulsive food intake and
compulsive drug intake," Wang and colleagues conclude.
The findings appear in the Oct. 17 issue of the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.