Food Addiction, Continued
Doped Up with Dopamine
As reported in a 2008 issue of the journal Obesity, researchers have found that when rats binge on sugar, it triggers the release of dopamine in the brain in just the same way that cocaine does.
This research also showed that rats are more likely to gain weight eating a diet heavy in sweets and fats, compared with the same amounts of whole foods. Furthermore, binging on sugar and then fasting afterward leads to neurotransmitter changes that result in increased anxiety. When more sugar is given, it reduces that anxiety and, not surprisingly, the animals turn into "sugar-holics."
You may be one of those people who can do without cakes and candy but daydream about being able to eat all you want of things like bread or ice cream. Interestingly, other research shows that proteins in both wheat and dairy contain trace amounts of opioids, which are chemically related to narcotics (think heroin, morphine, Vicodin). Although the amounts of these addictive substances are minute, they could conceivably explain part of the power of food addiction.
So, how can you beat a food addiction?
If high-glycemic foods tend to be addictive, the antidote may be low-glycemic foods, which have a moderate effect on blood glucose. Thornley points out that low-glycemic foods may be to sugars and starches what a slow-release nicotine patch is for someone trying to stop smoking. In fact, eating more low-glycemic fare is good advice for anyone, food addicted or not.
Do you feel like there is a particular food you could be addicted to? Join the conversation in the dLife FoodTalk Forum.
Reviewed by Susan Weiner, RD, MS, CDE, CDN. 4/11
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