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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Jessica

Addictive Properties of Food

There is evidence that shows the relationship between foods containing high amounts of sugar and fat and the dopamine-based reward pathways in the brain. For example, among people who regularly eat ice cream, a study showed a weakened dopamine response when people consumed milkshakes; this indicates a level of tolerance to the fat and sugar content of ice cream, and may explain the need to overeat in order to achieve the same level of satisfaction that less frequent ice-cream eaters are able to experience. As we get used to high levels of sugar and fat, we may end up eating greater quantities in order to get that pleasure response.

Addictive Properties of Tanning

There is science behind the “tanner’s high,” indicating that tanning can develop into an addictive behavior, as well. When people are exposed to UV rays, the reward pathways in the brain are activated, and endorphins are released. From an evolutionary standpoint, this process makes sense, because sun exposure was the primary source of vitamin D before the development of vitamin D supplements, and, therefore, motivation to stay in the sun was necessary.

The information on this page has been compiled from the research presented in the videos listed. Sources for each video can be found by going to the video’s page and clicking on the Sources Cited tab.

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