Bingeing on junk food is as addictive as smoking or taking drugs and could cause compulsive eating and obesity, a study has found.
American researchers found burgers, chips and sausages programmed a human brain into craving even more sugar, salt and fat laden food.
Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida found laboratory rats became addicted on a bad diet just like people who became dependent on cocaine and heroin.
While the findings cannot be directly transferred to human obesity, it found that overconsumption of high-calorie food triggered addiction-like responses in the brain.
(Andrew Hough. Junk food 'as addictive as heroin and smoking'. The Daily Telegraph. March 29, 2010.)
In the study, the research team divided the animals into three groups.
One got normal amounts of healthy food to eat, another was given restricted amounts of junk food and the third had unlimited amounts of cheesecake, fatty meat products, cheap sponge cakes and chocolate snacks.
There were no adverse effects on the first two groups. But the rats which ate as much junk food as they wanted quickly became very fat and started bingeing.