Overeating, Like Drug Use, Rewards And Alters Brain : NPR.
The science is finally starting to pour in on food addiction. As these reports explain, food high in calories, like sugar and fat, seem to affect our brain circuitry similar to drugs; causing many of us to become addicted and overeat as a result.
I wrote a paper 8 years ago explaining how food is addictive. The evidence has been around for awhile now, but as usual, studies are behind. Also, none of the studies discuss the real culprits behind food addiction- artificial food additives.
For the most part, natural forms of fat and sugar, left intact in the foods they come in are not really addictive. But extracted and concentrated, these ingredients become more powerful and act on the brain’s reward center like drugs. So, for example, eating fat that comes in fish, or chicken, won’t have much impact on our reward center, and we won’t get “addicted”. But adding a manipulated, isolated fat, like a “trans fat” to sugar, tells our brains that we ate much more fat than normal, and that sends a louder message to the reward center of the brain.
High Fructose Corn Syrup is another example of this process. This extracted form of sugar is much more concentrated than the sugar you would find say in an apple or a banana. When ingested, this sugar tells our neurotransmitters that it just consumed a very high level of sugar and the reward center gets higher than if the sugar was ingested intact along with many other nutrients and cofactors.
Unfortunately, as these studies reveal, eating this way often, and early in life, sets the stage for a lifelong battle of overeating. And as a Nutritionist, I can tell you that I have worked with many people that are unable to ever recover. But some do. The key to making real, long lasting change is to over haul your diet. Cleansing your system of processed, artificial foods can help clear the palate and over time can lower your brain’s need for the high rewards from foods it was getting.
It won’t be easy, and you will have to be consistent. Here are some natural foods that can help ease this transition and move the change along:
- bone broths (home made soups made from bones and meat of the animals)
-any vegetable you want to eat
- some natural forms of fat (in moderation): real butter, goat cheese, guacamole, nuts, but butters, coconut oil, olive oil (not heated)
- fruit, but only 1 a day until the sugar cravings are under control
If you are really struggling with sugar (which is the most common craving), try some raisins, or other fruits, or eat a small amount of fat. Then, over time, wean off the sugar altogether. The goal is to go 2 weeks without sugar (except in the form of fruit), trans fats and other processed foods, and you should be able to lower and maybe even eliminate food cravings for these junk foods. Once your cravings get under control, overeating will too.
There are also some natural supplements that can help. But these vary due to individual needs.