Food Addiction May Be Chemical

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Food addiction has a bit of a murky existence in the science community. To understand why, you have to look at the various definitions of the word "addiction."

You see, there are two categories of addiction: The "substance" variety (this includes the classic examples of smoking, alcohol, and hard drugs) which alters the chemical composition of your body, making it physically tough to quit. And then there's the "process" type of addiction (things like gambling, shopping, sex) that are focused more on the chemical interactions in the brain occurring because an activity is going on. Simply put, lock someone in a room to prevent access to smokes/booze/drugs and you're going to get someone with cold sweats and DTs as their body gets rid of the addictive chemicals it's stored up over the years. Lock someone in that same room to prevent access to gambling/shopping/sex, not so much.

Food, however, falls into this weird betweener category.

No one argues that eating does not change the composition of someone's body. That's the whole point of food, after all. (To extend our previous example, lock someone in a room to prevent them from eating, they'll die.) But a lot of science actually skews the direction of food addiction more into the latter category, suggesting that it's the actual "process" of eating (the taste sensations, the mastication, the feelings of being full, etc.) that is to blame rather than physical alterations to the body. As such, eating disorders are classically treated by focusing on the addict's mind rather than body, forgoing patches and methadone for therapy and twelve step programs. But that all may be about to change.

As this article at The Daily Beast explains, there's now more science to back the claim that food addiction is chemical:

In general, especially in studies of rodents, the brain appears to uniquely draw us to high-calorie, low-nutrient foods of the kind filling the shelves at every Kwik Chek, 7-Eleven, and corner deli.

That means foods like donuts, cheesecakes, bacon; the ones that have your mouth watering now just thinking about them. As part of the study being cited, researchers gave rats access to fatty, sugar-laden food. The rodents would binge on them, even when other options were made available, even when they were threatened with electrical shocks. And when the food was taken away, "animals experienced classic withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, tremors, and chattering teeth." But most frightening of all might be what happened to their babies:

[P]regnant mice that ate a heavily junk-food diet gave birth to pups not only with changes to the reward mechanisms of the brain, but with a preference for sugar and fat.

Scary stuff. But this all is just precursor to the big multi-million dollar question from all of this lab work: What do you do with this information? Drugs may begin getting prescribed a bit more liberally, and perhaps some kind of sugar-craving-blocker can be processed, but that might simply not be enough.

Many advocates of the food-addiction hypothesis also hope to eventually limit access to certain foods, especially for children, whose immature brains are vulnerable to forming the foundations for dependency and addiction.

Meaning a world in which there are two categories of food: The addictive and the necessary. The former would come with a warning label like those on cigarette cartons. At some point, certain foods just not be made available to children under a certain age (until they get their in-the-know friend to get them fake IDs, that is). A dramatic step in government regulation is, no doubt, quite a ways away at this point -- although something tells me potato chip companies are already siphoning off profits to be put into a "lobbyist fund" for when the time's right -- but it still raises the question:


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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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It's scarier even than the evidence that you site shows. Brand-new research also shows direct evidence of lasting and fundamental injuries to a part of the brain that helps us regulate our food intake, the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus. Within three days of being placed on a high-fat diet, a rat’s hypothalamus shows increased inflammation; within a week, researchers see evidence of permanent scarring and neuron injury in an area of the brain crucial for weight control. Brain scans of obese men and women show this exact pattern as well.

Additionally, overeating hyperpalatable foods changes our genes’ expressions within as little time as 2 weeks – which serves only to reinforce the entire cycle over and over again.

The cure? A diet high in brain-boosting foods and body-satisfying fuel, diligent efforts to train our pleasure centers in other ways, and changing the ways our bodies burn fuel by increasing muscle mass and cardiac strength.

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I have suffered with food addiction for much of my life. My addiction had to do with a very traumatic childhood. I used food as a way to survive. I am still in recovery and it is not easy

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I have suffered with food addiction for much of my life. My addiction had to do with a very traumatic childhood. I used food as a way to survive. I am still in recovery and it is not easy

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I have suffered with food addiction for much of my life. My addiction had to do with a very traumatic childhood. I used food as a way to survive. I am still in recovery and it is not easy

user-pic

I have suffered with food addiction for much of my life. My addiction had to do with a very traumatic childhood. I used food as a way to survive. I am still in recovery and it is not easy