Does yo-yo dieting drive compulsive eating? There may be a connection.
According to BUSM researchers the chronic cyclic pattern of overeating followed by undereating, reduces the brain’s ability to feel reward and may drive compulsive eating. This finding suggests that future research into treatment of compulsive eating behavior should focus on rebalancing the mesolimbic dopamine system–the part of the brain responsible for feeling reward or pleasure.
An estimated 15 million people compulsively eat in the U.S. It is a common feature of obesity and eating disorders, most notably, binge eating disorder. People often overeat because it is pleasurable in the short term, but then attempt to compensate by dieting, reducing calorie intake and limiting themselves to “safe”, less palatable food. However, diets often fail, causing frequent “relapse” to overeating of foods high in fat and sugar (palatable foods).
“We are just now beginning to understand the addictive-like properties of food and how repeated overconsumption of high sugar – similar to taking drugs – may affect our brains and cause compulsive behaviors,” said corresponding author Pietro Cottone, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology & experimental therapeutics and co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders.