Food cravings can be as powerful and irresistible as a bright orange bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. Even the thought of such hyperpalpable foods can increase dopamine, a pleasure-seeking brain chemical.
With 70 percent of Americans overweight or obese, we’ve become a nation of dopamine seekers addicted to the opioid that controls emotions, motivation and feelings of pleasure. The brain is very sensitive to opioids. Receptors, small monitoring devices on brain cells, detect the level of opioids in the brain and continually make adjustments.
How much does the American epidemic of the expanding waistline reflect a lack of personal responsibility, and how much does it reflect industrial food processing that adds hyperpalpable ingredients, including those known to promote addiction? (more…)
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…)
Over the past decade, we’ve had a mind-boggling increase in what is fast emerging as the most serious and costly health problem in the U.S.: morbid obesity. About 35 percent or 72 million American adults are obese, and of that number, 7 million adults are morbidly obese, a health condition which substantially raises the risk of mortality (death) and morbidity (chronic disease).
The rate of obesity has increased by almost 25 percent but the rate of morbid obesity has grown even faster: people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 40 increased by 50 percent. Perhaps most alarmingly, people with a BMI over 50—extreme obesity—grew by 75 percent, three times faster than the rate of obesity. Our children are not immune from the epidemic; we’ve seen a 300 percent increase in overweight children. Obesity-conditions are the fastest growing cause of death, and the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.