Sure, we hear the word “addicted” being thrown around all the time. Addiction may be loosely used to describe any intense craving or desire . . . or anything that we might humorously deem a “guilty pleasure.” However, did you know that recent scientific findings seem to support the belief that sometimes we really are addicted to those things we love – namely food? How can this happen, and why are we addicted to certain foods? Read on for the scoop about this all-too common phenomenon:
Dopamine. Dopamine is the “happy chemical” that our brains release when our pleasure center is stimulated in the brain. Illicit drugs are known to stimulate dopamine, as is sex and gambling . . . and apparently certain foods. That’s right – scientific studies show that our brains actually release dopamine just at the sight of foods we love. We don’t even have to eat them. This difference – between stimulating the motivation circuits (just looking) and stimulating the reward circuits (actually eating) is equivalent to what a drug addict experiences when “craving” a drug that he or she is addicted to. That means that, biologically speaking, we actually fiend for food using exactly the same mechanism that a drug addict uses to fiend for drugs.
Obese versus non-obesity. In a very interesting study conducted by the United States Department of Energy, scientists found that drug addicts have less dopamine receptors than non-addicts. That means that their bodies are less able to absorb dopamine to get that good feeling we all crave, while non-addicts naturally just absorb more satisfying amounts of dopamine. Curiously, scientists conducting the same study found similar results when testing for dopamine receptors in obese people: those tested had less dopamine receptors than the non-obese people tested. This may account for unhealthy consumption behaviors associated with obesity, and is surely compelling evidence in the case of food as an addiction.
Ending food addiction: will-power versus genetics. Sure, we now know that some of us are simply genetically predisposed to food addiction – or really, addiction in general. Does that means that those of us with fewer dopamine receptors should just give up and admit defeat? Absolutely not. Studies also show that addiction can be overcome, and that the brain can be reprogrammed into new, different patterns that are not so self-destructive.
You don’t have to count on will-power alone. There are some proven ways to win the battle against food addiction, and they include: avoiding the addictive foods altogether, maintaining a balanced blood sugar level, taking natural supplements to cut cravings, and getting the right amount of sleep.
Yes, unfortunately it seems that food addiction is real. That doesn’t mean you have to let it win. Win the food addiction battle by arming yourself with knowledge. This article is a great start.
About the Author: Delsie Ninness used to be addicted to all sorts of processed foods. She now has a clean diet and practices intermittent fasting and enjoys healthy foods more than ever.