Study: Chocolate and Opium Trigger Similar Brain Effects

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In a study that brings us closer to understanding what drives addiction, it turns out that chocolate's effect on the brain is similar to that of opium.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that a natural brain chemical called enkephalin surged while rats snacked on M&M chocolate candies. Enkephalin is an endorphin with similar characterisitics to heroin. Scientists believe that the chemical may be responsible for binge-eating in people, as well as drug addiction.

In the study with rats, a brain area known to release enkephalin was stimulated during feeding times. NBC reported that with the release of enkephalin, the animals ate double their normal share of food.

"‘This (study) means that the brain has more extensive systems to make individuals over-consume rewards than previously thought," said study author Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, of the University of Michigan. "The same brain area tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes."

The study was published in the journal Current Biology.

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