Many people struggle with addictions every day in their lives. Anything can be addicting if one finds extreme pleasure in it: alcohol, drugs, gambling, sports, etc. One particular addiction receives less attention than most of the other common ones. Everyone is susceptible to it no matter your age or gender. It involves a basic need to survive: food.
Some research has found that certain foods possess addictive properties similar to drugs or alcohol. Brain scans performed on some people show that food creates a chemically-induced craving in the brain that keeps you reaching for more.
Both animal and human scientific experiments show that the pleasure centers of the brain susceptible to addictive substances can also be stimulated by food. The main culprits are ultra-tasty foods that contain sugar, fat, and salt.
Food manufacturers specially design their products with these additives (always read the ingredient list). Processed foods are marketed as being affordable and readily available. They can be found practically everywhere. The fast pace of our society has prompted most people to rely on these foods for survival.
An addicting substance interferes with normal brain signals and produces an increase in certain brain chemicals, namely dopamine. Studies have found that ultra-tasty processed foods that contain high amounts of sugar, fat, and salt can trigger large increases in dopamine. Increased dopamine production equals increased pleasure and it entices people to want to eat again.
The increased dopamine production in the brain contributes to the impairment of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. When this happens, it is nearly impossible to resist the temptation to eat more ultra-tasty foods. The pleasure feelings are so high they may prevail over feelings of fullness. This is why someone will continue to eat even when not hungry.
Some research has discovered that high-glycemic foods are particularly dangerous. Highly processed and rapidly digested carbohydrates (refined grains and sugars) can cause a person to feel hungrier. This suggests that the glycemic load can modify brain function and promote compulsive eating. Some research even shows that table sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
Think you may have a food addiction? See if any of these apply to you:
* You eat more than you originally planned to eat in any one meal
* You continue to eat even when no longer hungry
* You continue to eat until it makes you physically sick
* You go out of your way to hunt down foods you are craving if they are not available
Many experts believe that food addiction plays a key role in obesity. We must focus on the health advantages of food rather than the taste of food. Small changes in diet and exercise can improve quality of life for anyone. Baby steps!
The science world continues to work to understand better food addictions and how to best treat them. Never be shy to seek help from an educated professional if necessary.
We can enjoy food but should never abuse ourselves because our health pays the ultimate price for it.
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