Everyday scenes in grocery stores, malls, parking lots, toy stores, even at your local church houses and schools leave parents, caregivers and teachers frustrated and wanting to “pull their hair out”. One of these scenes might play out something like this: Heads turn to check out the screaming child on isle 5 only to see a “brat” demanding high-fat sugary snacks or drinks. When told, “no you can't have that or no, that's not good for you honey”, the child screams even louder and more often than not becomes somewhat violent. The red faced parent or caregiver ultimately gives in and gives the child what they demand, and all is quiet for a short while. Although there might be a discipline issue exasperating the problem, somehow the message just isn't getting across that something is very wrong with this picture. When young children are exposed to high-fat/high-sugar foods, they too can become addicted, but did you know just “how” addicted?
A recent study at a Connecticut college revealed just how addictive high-fat/high-sugar foods can be. Joseph Schroeder, associate professor of psychology and director of the behavioral neuroscience program, and some of his students performed the study. The study was pretty simple but included a maze, Oreo cookies, rice cakes, cocaine, morphine, and a saline solution.
They gave one set of mice the Oreos, the other the rice cakes. The rice cakes bombed whereas the Oreos were the preferred favorite. When the mice were allowed to choose which they liked and hang out near that source of that food, you might have figured out that the mice chose the Oreo camp.
When it came time to test the mice on morphine or cocaine versus the saline solution injections, again the mice given the addictive morphine and cocaine stayed where they got their fix. The mice stayed on the Oreo side just as long as they did the drug side. This led the scientists to conclude that the addiction was just as strong with Oreos as cocaine or morphine.
When they tested the brains of the mice to see what effects the addictive Oreos and drugs had on the brains they found the pleasure center of the brain of the mice fed the Oreos to be much higher in pleasure neurons than the ones with the drugs.
So parents, when your child throws that fit, it might just be that it's time for their next fix. If you don't like that terminology directed at your child, then maybe it is time for a change. Never in a million years did anyone ever think high-sugar/high-fat snacks had such an addictive effect, but just in case the mice are telling the story right and humans have the same neurological reaction to these foods, it only seems smart to limit how much of it a child is exposed to.
If you suspect your child is already addicted, it may be a difficult week long experience to wean them off of the “addiction”, but it may be worth it. So many questions are still to be answered, and the studies are said to be continuing with this research. What will this mean for the future of “junk-food”? Who knows? Are there other health issues being blamed for this addiction such as hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder? Again, it's not known yet. However, the smallest of our society are at our mercy, and we owe it to them to protect them the best we can.
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