Here are some of the scientific findings confirming that food can, indeed, be addictive:
1.Sugar stimulates the brain’s reward centers through the neurotransmitter dopamine exactly like other addictive drugs.
2.Brain imagining (PET scans) shows that high-sugar and high-fat foods work just like heroin, opium, or morphine in the brain.(iii)
3.Brain imaging (PET scans) shows that obese people and drug addicts have lower numbers of dopamine receptors, making them more likely to crave things that boost dopamine.
4.Foods high in fat and sweets stimulate the release of the body’s own opioids (chemicals like morphine) in the brain.
5.Drugs we use to block the brain’s receptors for heroin and morphine (naltrexone) also reduce the consumption and preference for sweet, high-fat foods in both normal weight and obese binge eaters.
6.People (and rats) develop a tolerance to sugar—they need more and more of the substance to satisfy themselves—just like they do for drugs of abuse like alcohol or heroin.
7.Obese individuals continue to eat large amounts of unhealthy foods despite severe social and personal negative consequences, just like addicts or alcoholics.
8.Animals and humans experience “withdrawal” when suddenly cut off from sugar, just like addicts detoxifying from drugs.
9.Just like drugs, after an initial period of “enjoyment” of the food the user no longer consumes them to get high, but to feel normal
After watching "Supersize Me" I began to realize just how destructive fast food can be. At the same time, I couldn't help loving it. I don't know much about the science, but I'm from New Mexico. One of New Mexico's most popular and largest food exports is the Chile Pepper. Growing up eating green chile, you get a first hand look at how some foods can be very addicting. Fortunately, green chile is a pretty healthy little veggie, because once you go for a few weeks without eating chile, it's all you can think about.
I used to smoke. I don't any longer, but I know cravings very well. A chile craving feels just like a mild craving for nicotine. It even gets the endorphins into play! They are so spicy, that it causes the brain to generate endorphins to ease the pain and give you a tiny little high. (!!!) As such, I'm not at all suprised that sugar is addictive. I've never been a huge fan of sweets, but I do find that I like some food that is high in sugar...I can't eat plain cereal, gotta have some sugar. Same with oatmeal, and yes, I do love McDonald's...or did. I won't be enjoying much McDonald's anymore, thanks to my new lifestyle. Sometimes, nothing will quench my thirst like a soda. Granted, I try and minimize the damage now by drinking a lower calorie soda...but its still soda and its still a totally useless intake of sugar and calories.
Anyway, nice post, and thanks for the info! It just seemed to resonate with my experience.