A growing body of medical research at leading universities and government laboratories suggests that processed foods and sugary drinks (like soda, energy drinks and flavored coffees) aren’t simply unhealthy; they also hijack the brain in ways that resemble addictions to cocaine, nicotine and other drugs.
This has turned more than a few heads, including those at the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). Nora Volkow, director at the NIDA said, “The data is so overwhelming the field has to accept it. We are finding tremendous overlap between drugs in the brain and food in the brain.”
The idea that food may be addictive wasn’t even on scientists’ radar a decade ago. Now the field is booming. Twenty-eight scientific studies and papers on food addiction were published in 2011. We wrote a three part series on Sugar Addiction that sites many of these studies as well as what you can do if you have a sugar addiction. Now, many studies are showing that not only are sugar and sugary drinks addictive, fatty foods may be as well.
Lab studies have found that sugary drinks and fatty foods can produce addictive behavior in animals. In addition, brain scans of obese people and compulsive eaters reveal disturbances in the brain reward circuitry similar to those experienced by drug abusers.
Of course, sugars and fats have been present in the human diet for a long time and our bodies are programmed to crave them. What has changed in the recent past is modern processing that creates food products with concentrated levels of sugars, unhealthy fats and refined flour while removing most of the beneficial fiber and nutrients. Consuming large quantities of these processed foods is changing the way the brain is wired, and that change is looking a lot like addiction.
All this spells trouble – not only for those that consume these foods, but for those that manufacture them. If fatty foods and snacks and drinks sweetened with sugar and high fructose corn syrup are proven to be addictive, food companies may face the most drawn-out consumer safety battle since the anti-smoking movement took on big-tobacco a generation ago.
In the meantime, don’t wait for the courts to decide what is or is not in your best interest –that choice is clear: eating foods that are high in sugar and fat is bad for you; the more you eat, the more you will want to eat; and the more you want something, the worse your life becomes. Do something now to help get control of your cravings and get control of your life back!