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Mechanisms of Drug Abuse and Obesity Linked in Lab Rats

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Lab rats that consumed high-fat foods showed neurological responses similar to patterns of addiction in human cocaine and heroin users, a study by the Scripps Research Institute found. 

Groups of male rats were given access to high-fat foods over a 40-day period, which were then withheld. The rats showed addiction-like behavioral symptoms, and researchers found that levels of type-2 dopamine – which has been linked to addiction in humans — dropped in the rats as they became obese, suggesting a discreet link between high-fat foods and the reward mechanism. 

Paul J. Kenny, one of the co-authors of the study, said the findings could mean that drugs developed for treating addiction could help overeaters. “Hopefully,” he said, “this study will change the way people think about eating.”

The study was published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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