Food cravings can be powerful and as irresistible as a bright orange bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. Even the thought of such foods increases dopamine, a brain chemical that controls emotions, motivation, and feelings of pleasure.
Addictive foods like Doritos trigger the same chemicals and pleasure pathways in the brain as cocaine and heroin. The fat in Doritos is a mouthwatering sensation; the brain’s trigeminal nerve, which detects fat, conveys the signal straight to the brain’s reward center. Processed foods high in fat, salt, and sugar can be as addictive as drugs and alcohol.
Our brains adjust to the greater degree of fat, sugar and salt in the foods we eat—brain cells and brain chemicals change. Over time, we may develop signs of physical addiction to addictive foods such as an increasing tolerance to their pleasurable effects. We need to eat more to get the same effect. Food addiction is a brain disease because the abuse of food leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain. (more…)