Now scientists who have spent many a long hours studying the effects of chocolate overindulgence on the brains of rats, have claimed they found the biological reason why overindulgence in favorite foods leads to continued overindulgence.
The brain produces opiate like chemicals, a known fact, when it encounters pleasurable events, foods, etc. The particular opiate, enkephalin, surged in the neostriatum, where the doctors had given the rats an artificial shot of the drug and then consumed twice as many chocolates as their non-dosed counterparts.
“The same brain area we tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes,” she says. “It seems likely that our enkephalin findings in rats mean that this neurotransmitter may drive some forms of overconsumption and addiction in people.” Science Daily
The dose given this part of the brain didn’t produce the effects hypothesized, but rather just increased the desire and decreased the ability to refuse the candy. The brains conditioned to eat chocolate on a regular basis would have a higher amount of the enkephalin, and thus the owners of those brains would continue to overindulge. The scientists involved were actually testing to see if the neostratium played any part in other bodily functions or actions rather than just movement, and were caught off guard with this discovery when they used a simple but common stimulus.
It clearly shows a direct link for chocoholics that their addiction isn’t a joke but very real because it’s the same area of the brain that lights up when drug addicts or obese people see their drug of choice or mounds of food in front of them respectively.
Enkephalin is at the base of it all as the neurotransmitter that drives it. Understanding this leads to new hypotheses and new research into overeating, and possibly new treatments and cures for the obese. Since that is a major issue for many nationwide, we can only hope those discoveries and treatments can reach the populace before they die of overeating.
In the meantime, the old science of the happy feelings chemical in chocolate, theobromine, will still play a part in connection with enkephalin’s production internally for the consumption of chocolate. Other foods in nature containing theobromine have been noted to have similar “happy” effects on its consumers; green coffee and green coffee extract in particular has been studied and found to contain a large amount of theobromine. Roasted coffee beans made for the drink have significantly less, but still seem to make its consumers weak in the knees thinking about it. New diet pill companies are taking a closer look at theobromine as a potential ingredient in their weight loss products, and they just might be on to something that will work.