Last year we found, and republished, an interesting graphic that pondered a curious question –which is worse, soda or marijuana? A side-by-side comparison of the two pits the processed against the natural, the legal versus the illegal. While we could debate the pros and cons of each all day long, to the pleasure center of the brain, they are one in the same.
A fascinating piece aired on CBS’ 60 Minutes tonight with the foremost researcher on addiction, Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2007, she was named by Time Magazine as one “of the 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.” Tonight’s Hooked: Why Bad Habits are Hard to Break explained the chemistry behind addiction and showed that whether it’s a hamburger or heroine, soda or marijuana, our brain sees them exactly the same – as triggers for a rush of dopamine.
Morley Safer reported and described Dr. Volkow as the woman who has “revolutionized how science and medicine view addiction: as a disease, not a character defect.” She told him that the “Just Say No” campaign is just “magic of thinking.”
“If it were that easy…there’d be no obesity,” or other physical signs of addiction. In other words, addiction stems from deep within the pleasure center of our brains, and all the willpower, support, and motivation in the world can’t always turn it off.
People often say they are “addicted” to a food without much thought. But real food addiction is not something that should be taken lightly.
While it may be difficult to ever imagine comparing food and drugs, the difference in how people interact and react to each is not so different after all. People who suffer from food addiction exhibit some of the same behaviors and chemical reactions in their body as a drug addict.
Scientists are finding that food addiction begins in the brain. Here, there are chemical surges that affect a person’s response to food. These surges are very similar to those that occur with substance abuse. (more…)
I’ve long thought that there is a finer line between food and drugs than people may think. Now, studies are starting to prove that food cravings are a little more complicated than just being in a weak moment.
Researchers are now saying that the reaction to those guilty culinary pleasures is basically the same as how a drug addict reacts when they need a fix.
When experts looked at the brain activity in their subjects when presented with a chocolate milkshake, they found that simply seeing the sweet dessert activated the same parts of the brain as a drug addict who sees cocaine.
If this turns out to be accepted dogma in the scientific community, it could be a complete game-changer in the nutrition world.
“If food cues take on enhanced motivational properties in a manner analogous to drug cues, efforts to change the current food environment may be critical to successful weight loss and prevention efforts,” says a written statement by study experts. “Ubiquitous food advertising and the availability of inexpensive palatable foods may make it extremely difficult to adhere to healthier food choices because the omnipresent food cues trigger the reward system.” (more…)
Tune into OWN tonight to catch the premier episode of Addicted to Food, a new docu-series that follows the stories of eight patients with eating disorders. They will undergo treatment for 42 days at Shades of Hope Treatment Center near Abilene, Texas. The patients suffer from a variety of food-related problems, including bulimia, compulsive eating and binge eating.
Shades of Hope will dig deep to get at the underlying problems these people face, and the facility also specializes in treating patients with multiple addictions. Their therapist, Tennie McCarty, will work to help them understand the underlying causes of their eating disorders, whether drug-related, physical, emotional or sexual. She takes a tough-love approach that some may find unconventional. Confronting these issues may be difficult and painful, but it can also help them break free of devastating cycles of addiction. (more…)
UPDATE: This episode will air again on June 29, 2011.
Tune in this Monday, January 17 to The Dr. Oz Show to find out if you suffer from a food addiction.
On this episode, Dr. Oz will give five warning signs to anyone who has ever felt their dependency on food goes a bit farther then cravings for chocolate and hunger pains after a workout. You’ll hear from real women who have food addictions as well as one woman who once weighed more than 200 pounds and overcame her addiction to food. (more…)
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve posted pieces on public health policy as it relates to full-disclosure of restaurants’ nutritional information. The publicity and efforts are slowly revving up, as it becomes more and more evident that unhealthy food is a serious concern in society.
If you come to the table of discussion with an open mind, you can see how, in essence, there is little difference between junk food and some of the “milder” drugs. In fact, there are rumblings to consider junk food as legitimately addictive. Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute are saying their findings “could provide the basis for new policies aimed at treating fast food more like cigarettes.” Anyone who has had a bag of Doritos can attest to the addictive nature of unhealthy snack food. There are also some expert calls for tempering the junk-food junkie connection argument a little.
“Overeating and drug addiction may converge on some of the same neurons,” says Endocrinologist Barbara Kahn. “but other pathways are also involved. And from a biochemical point of view, the two are not the same thing. Drug addictions are much stronger.”
It is a political tightrope, for sure. Most people don’t want government acting as a nanny to its citizens, but at the same time, there can be some reasonable compromises, such as taking soda and candy out of schools (we limit adolescent access to other things) and printing nutritional information on restaurant menus.
Adults don’t need parenting, so I certainly fall on the side of consumers needing to be the ultimate decision-makers, but they do need to have the ability to make those decisions as informed as possible.
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