Ice Cream Addiction: How the CR Way to calorie restriction can help

I remember him well, how he used to love to sit on the red couch and watch TV after dinner. Tall, handsome, with a dark, thick head of hair – and about 20 pounds overweight. The grey suit he wore to work did a good job of hiding his extra weight.

Before he sat down, he would go to the freezer to get his ice cream fix: Chocolate, vanilla – the freezer usually had a backup carton or two of his favorite flavors. Then there were the exotic flavors of the moment that caught his attention – English toffee, Oreo cookie, watermelon.

It was amazing to watch the ice cream man eat his dinner, before he had his ice cream fix. He was capable of downing some the most delicious meals within the blink of an eye, then leaving the table for the emotional respite from work pressures: ice cream, sometimes with a piece of pie or cake or whatever his wife had fixed for dessert.

The fat and the sugar from the ice cream would make him dozy, so as he progressed into his fifties he would often fall asleep after his ice cream, unless there was a really interesting TV program that caught his attention. By 10 or 11  o’clock he would wake up to listen to the news. Fired up by his0 nap and what he’d hear on the news, he would often have another bowl of ice cream, sending blood to his stomach and making him fall asleep quickly.

Five to six hours later, he would wake up tired. Then a few jolts of coffee was enough to help him get his day started sometimes – wondering why he slept so poorly.

For a few decades, time seemed suspended for the ice cream man. Good genes may have helped him get by with his ice cream habit and seemingly little price to pay. Yet there were unheeded warning signals: less energy, high blood pressure, vision loss – reducing his quality of life, something that many people grow to accept.

Then in his early sixties, the dark side of ice cream addiction began to rear its ugly head. At first, it was manageable. He had a few minor strokes, which produced blurring of vision, a warning of what was to come.

Then the ice cream man had some bad luck: A young driver lost control of her car and hit his car from behind. He saw her car in the rear view and ducked below the seat just in time to avoid serious injury or so it seemed. But the stress and adrenaline from the accident caused him to have a major stroke, causing loss of control of his left leg – for the rest of his life.

From there hell broke lose. Bleeding diverticula in his gut caused him to pass out on the bathroom floor. He was lucky to make it to the hospital in time to save his life, but part of his colon had to be removed. He returned home with strong warnings from doctors to change his diet.

The next time was worse. His limping, unsteady gait somehow caused him to fall down hard on his kitchen floor. This time his stay at the hospital was marked by a heart attack. Several bypasses were necessary to keep his plaque-clogged arteries from killing him.

The next time I saw him, he looked like a ghost. Bent over with gray skin, he struggled with a walker to get to the bathroom every 20 minutes or so. From there the end of life came quickly – with a few difficult years that included cancer.

The ice cream manufacturers use combinations of flavors, and textures to make an ice cream experience so pleasurable you’ll want more and more.  Even the name of the flavor will make you laugh, helping you rationalize eating it. One study suggests that ice cream is addictive – like cocaine.

Frequent ice cream consumption is associated with reduced striatal response to receipt of an ice cream-based milkshake.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012 Apr;95(4):810-7. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Burger KS, Stice E.


Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR.



Weight gain leads to reduced reward-region responsivity to energy-dense food receipt, and consumption of an energy-dense diet compared with an isocaloric, low-energy-density diet leads to reduced dopamine receptors. Furthermore, phasic* dopamine signaling to palatable food receipt decreases after repeated intake of that food, which collectively suggests that frequent intake of an energy-dense food may reduce striatal response** to receipt of that food.

[* A phasic receptor is a sensory receptor that adapts rapidly to a stimulus.

** The dorsal striatum of the brain plays a role in food- consumption reward, and striatal dopamine receptors are known to be reduced in obese individuals.]


We tested the hypothesis that frequent ice cream consumption would be associated with reduced activation in reward-related brain regions (eg, striatum) in response to receipt of an ice cream-based milkshake and examined the influence of adipose tissue and the specificity of this relation.


Healthy-weight adolescents (n = 151) underwent fMRI during receipt of a milkshake and during receipt of a tasteless solution. Percentage body fat, reported food intake, and food craving and liking were assessed.


Milkshake receipt robustly activated the striatal regions, yet frequent ice cream consumption was associated with a reduced response to milkshake receipt in these reward-related brain regions. Percentage body fat, total energy intake, percentage of energy from fat and sugar, and intake of other energy-dense foods were not related to the neural response to milkshake receipt.


Our results provide novel evidence that frequent consumption of ice cream, independent of body fat, is related to a reduction in reward-region responsivity in humans, paralleling the tolerance observed in drug addiction. Data also imply that intake of a particular energy-dense food results in attenuated reward-region responsivity specifically to that food, which suggests that sensory aspects of eating and reward learning may drive the specificity.

PMID:2233803, NIH. NLM, PubMed access to Medline bibliographic citations

CR Way additions in [brackets]


Here’s what the tabloids say about it:

Study: Ice cream as addictive as cocaine

But ice cream addiction has a vulnerable underbelly. Unlike  some  addictive foods, like doughnuts or cookies, the protein in ice cream blocks serotonin production – the satisfaction neurotransmitter that helps you stop eating. So some ice cream addicts tend to eat more and more ice cream to feel satisfied.

A first step to breaking ice cream or other food addiction is to learn how to increase serotonin with healthful CR Way foods. When you do that, letting something like ice cream go is much easier. The extra serotonin will help you maintain your resolve to stick with your diet. In fact, many who travel the CR Way to Healthful Weight Loss report that they no longer feel the craving for comfort foods.

The April Healthful Weight Loss Getting Started teleconferences begin tomorrow night, Friday, April 20. That call focuses on increasing serotonin and other brain chemicals that help you feel satisfied and happy. Day Two, Saturday,  Sunday, April 21, shows you how to manage your foods with the NutriBase CR Way Edition Software, so you don’t have to guess about how to follow a CR Way diet. No accident — the Software includes serotonin-producing recipes.

Day Three, Sunday, April 22, focuses on glucose control with a special emphasis on weight loss and increasing another hormone that helps people break food addictions.

To see the details of the conferences, go to the Teleconference Schedule forum thread.

If you are a CR Way to Healthful Weight Loss member, send a note to from your e-mail address that’s associated with your membership, requesting the call-in details.

For more, see Making Healthful Foods Irresistible

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