Genes Don't Doom You to Overeat

An addiction to chocolate can be overcome with healthful pleasures.


Practically every woman knows that chocolate has a druglike quality, but who knew that some women actually need more to get that high? That's the finding of a new study published this week in the journal Science showing that women whose brains were less activated by the "pleasure" chemical dopamine after they were given a milkshake were more likely to be obese and more likely to gain weight over the course of a year. Apparently, they had to eat more to get the same pleasure most of us get from eating less.

The study authors say drug treatments could be developed to correct this problem, but these are far in the future, and far too many obesity drugs have been dismal disappointments. I'm also inclined to think that these findings probably apply to all of us at least to some extent. If you haven't had a piece of gooey fudge in a while, that first bite will cause fireworks in those dopamine brain regions. But if you have several pieces a day...probably not much of a pick-me-up.

So how do you break the addiction that leads to weight gain? One expert interviewed by National Public Radio recommends going cold turkey, avoiding sweets altogether until your brain stops craving them. While that may work for some women, others may find it very hard, if not impossible, to do. I wonder, though, if finding other, more healthful ways to activate the brain's pleasure centers can help reduce a food addiction? Yes, a Los Angeles Times article suggests.

All you need to do is shake things up a bit, alter your ho-hum routine. Grab a calendar and fill in every day with something pleasurable that you haven't done in a while: bubble bath on Wednesday, yoga class on Thursday, 3-D puzzle on Friday, nature trail hike on Saturday, pumpkin picking on Sunday. Oh, and don't forget to work some novelty into those food indulgences. I wonder if perhaps those women in the study would have gotten more pleasure from one square of rich dark chocolate, or a fresh-brewed mocha coffee, or spicy hot apple cider or...

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