Human Brain Likes Rewards and Consumption of Chocolate

First Posted: Sep 21, 2012 06:33 AM EDT

One of the most commonly carved foods especially among women is 'Chocolate. For more than thousands of years people have been obsessed with this food. Mostly considered as a junk food, chocolate has some perks on health.

But why do people crave so much for chocolates? The researchers from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor have an explanation to this exciting question.  

The tendency and urge to devour the sweet and rich chocolate finds traces to an unexpected part of the brain and its production of natural, opium like chemical. This evidence was proved by experimenting on a rat.

The details of the study is processed in the September 20th Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

"This means that the brain has more extensive systems to make individuals want to over consume rewards than previously thought," said Alexandra DiFeliceantonio of the university. "It may be one reason why overconsumption is a problem today."

The team came out with this discovery when they gave the rats an artificial boost with a drug delivered straight to a brain region called the neostriatum. They noticed that these rats stuffed more than twice the number of M&M chocolates than they would have otherwise eaten.

This occurred because enkephalin, the natural drug-like chemical produced in that same brain region, surged when rats began to eat the candy-coated morsels, too.

"It's not that enkephalins or similar drugs make the rats like the chocolates more," the researchers say, "but rather that the brain chemicals increase their desire and impulse to eat them."

Another important aspect highlighted of neostriatum's role, as DiFeliceantonio is that the brain region had primarily been linked to movement.

"The same brain area we tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes," she says. "It seems likely that our enkephalin findings in rats mean that this neurotransmitter may drive some forms of overconsumption and addiction in people."

With this interesting discovery the researchers now hope to untie a related phenomenon that some of us might wish we could do more to control.

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