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Thursday, August 30, 2007

CHOCOHOLICS is more akin to an addiction.

presented by Md Moshiur Rahman sponsored by

British researchers have discovered that chocoholics' brains respond to chocolate as drug addicts' do to drugs.

The scientists also discovered that areas of the brain associated with reward were activated just by the sight of chocolate.

This led the researchers to suggest people may be able to lose weight by avoiding the sight of foods they desire.

Oxford University's Prof Edmund Rolls and Ciara McCabe performed functional magnetic resonance imaging on the brains of eight chocoholics and eight controls.

The volunteers were shown photos of chocolate and then sipped on liquid chocolate while having fMRI scans.

Among the chocoholics, greater activity was seen in the regions of the brain associated with pleasurable sensations, habit-forming behaviour and drug addiction.

The fMRI scans also showed that combining the sight and taste of chocolate generated a stronger response in both cravers and non-cravers than either sensation separately.

Prof Rolls, whose research was published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, said dieters could learn from his findings.

"If you want to limit (food) intake, you could limit the extent to which you are exposed to the combination of sight and taste," Prof Rolls said. "For example, you could eat in the dark."

Chocoholic Lindsey Wright, 28, said he craved chocolate every day.

Described by colleagues as the office "choc-head", the retail project manager said it wasn't unusual for him to devour chocolate mudcake for lunch.

"My afternoon cravings are second nature to me," he said.

"My girlfriend is just as bad or even worse than I am, so maybe chocoholics are attracted to each other."

A MAGAZINE survey says a quarter of Australians are addicted to coffee and say they cannot function without it.

Home Beautiful's poll of 552 people found 26 per cent of respondents said they were addicted to caffeine. About 12 per cent drank four or more cups a day and 14 per cent up to three cups.

According to the Australian Coffee Traders' Association, Australians consume 2.4kg of coffee each a year, compared with just over 500g 50 years ago.

Brain scans pinpoint how chocoholics are hooked

Chocoholics really do have chocolate on the brain. Their grey matter reacts differently when they see or taste chocolate than people who do not crave the food.

British researchers used brain scans to investigate subconscious reactions to the confection and found that the pleasure centres of chocolate lovers' brains lit up more strongly in response to the food than those who are less partial.

There may also be some truth in calling the love of chocolate an addiction in some people. When cravers viewed pictures of chocolate this activated regions of the brain known to be involved in habit-forming behaviours and drug addiction.Edmund Rolls and Ciara McCabe at the University of Oxford's experimental psychology department used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of eight chocoholics and eight non-cravers. All the volunteers were women. The technique reveals where activity is happening in the brain.

The volunteers were presented first with appetising pictures of chocolate bars, before being allowed also to taste liquid chocolate fed to them through a tube in the confined space of the scanner.

As expected the cravers consistently rated the experience as more pleasant, but their brains also reacted differently. Three regions thought to be important in pleasure sensation and addictive behaviour - the orbitofrontal cortex, the ventral striatum and the cingulate cortex - were all more active in the chocolate fanciers. "We can tell what people will like from their brain response," said Prof Rolls. The findings are published this month in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

The study also found that combining the sight and taste of chocolate produced a stronger reaction in both cravers and non-cravers, than either separately. Prof Rolls said this suggests that seeing the food we eat plays a key role in enjoying its taste.

"Sight and flavour combined give a much bigger response than seeing or tasting the food separately. The sight component is important and complements the flavour," he said.

This finding might offer a way of making food less pleasurable for people on a diet. "The take-home message is that if you want to limit [food] intake, you could limit the extent to which you are exposed to the combination of sight and taste. For example, you could eat in the dark", he said. This is an "exact parallel" with the experience of eating food when you cannot smell anything - for example if you have a blocked nose, he said.

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