Brain Activity And Overeating

Published:July 4th, 2010

Advances in neuroimaging allow researchers to study addictive behaviors such as tobacco addiction or overeating. What addictive behaviors do is hijack the brain’s reward system.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is important for motivation and reward. There is a surge in dopamine while we engage in a pleasurable habit, eating for example. This is what makes us repeat such behaviour.

There is similar brain activity in patients addicted to drugs or alcohol and those addicted to eating. Higher body mass index is correlated with lower inhibitory control in the prefrontal cortex. This is why overweight persons have problems controlling their appetite.

Sugar and carbohydrates can cause addictions. In order to lose weight, psychological cravings have to be altered. A healthy balance of neurotransmitters can help in maintaining optimal weight. The nutrients and energy present in our bodies influence our appetite and moods. Dopamine is released after we eat protein and can enhance concentration and alertness.

When we try to lower calories to lose weight, your brain is depleted of serotonin, which is neurotransmitter that allows us to feel contented and calm. We feel increased urges for different foods. Skipping meals leads to lower blood sugar levels and this leads to increase in the cravings we feel for food. The more we eat fatty foods, the stronger our desire for such foods gets.

Addictive behavior can be regulated through psychotherapy that aims at regaining self-control. By acknowledging their problems, patients can put their neurons to use. The brain chemistry is altered, so that psychological insights gained through psychotherapy can diffuse compulsions. The positive impact on the life of people affected by addictive behaviour is obvious.

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