Food and Behaviour Research

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2 July 2013 - Medscape - Refined carbs may trigger food addiction

By Kathleen Louden

Consumption of a meal that has a high glycemic index (GI) appears to stimulate key brain regions related to craving and reward, a finding that supports the controversial hypothesis of food addiction, new research suggests.

Investigators from Boston Children's Hospital in Massachusetts found that compared with consumption of a low-GI meal, a meal high in refined carbohydrates decreased plasma glucose, increased hunger, and selectively stimulated brain regions 4 hours after eating — a critical time point that influences eating behavior at the next meal.

"We think we have shown for the first time that refined carbohydrates' biological effects can provoke, independent of calories and tastiness, symptoms related to addiction in susceptible people — those who are overweight or obese," said the study's principal investigator, David Ludwig, MD, from Boston Children's Hospital.

Dr. Ludwig, director of the hospital's New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, told Medscape Medical News that his team's preliminary findings support "the notion of food addiction which is very controversial because, unlike drugs of addiction, we have to eat to survive."