You may joke that you're addicted to chocolate, but food addiction could be a very real problem.

Eating highly processed carbohydrates can stimulate brain regions involved in reward and cravings -- as well as substance abuse and dependence -- a new study has found.

To examine whether craving for food can become an actual addiction, researchers measured blood sugar levels and hunger while using MRI to monitor brain activity during the four-hour period after a meal.

A milkshake was the food of choice for the study. Twelve overweight or obese men consumed either a shake with rapidly digesting carbohydrates, or one with slowly digesting carbs.

After participants drank the rapidly digesting carbohydrate milkshake, they experienced an initial surge in blood sugar levels and then a crash four hours later. The blood glucose decrease triggered excessive hunger and also activated a part of the brain involved in addictive behaviors, suggesting that foods with rapidly digesting carbs, like white bread and potatoes, can increase cravings and lead to overeating.

The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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