WGXA's Healthy Living: Blogs
Fight Food Addiction
Story Updated: Jul 19, 2012
By Denise Foley for Completely You
Ever wonder why, when it comes to your favorite foods, one bite always leads to another? Why single-serving packages don’t stop you from eating the equivalent of one entire sleeve of chocolate chip cookies or a whole bag of potato chips?
Come on, you know why. Because it tastes so good.
But science has come up with yet another reason. When you eat because it’s pleasurable and not because you’re hungry, your body activates chemicals that are linked to your brain’s reward system. Yes, that’s right -- just like drugs. Even worse, when your reward system is activated, it overrides the chemical signals that tell your body that you’re full. (Like we need that.)
Italian researchers found this out when they tested eight adults who had already eaten and were full. They fed each of them their own personal favorite foods and then fed them a less palatable food of equal calories. Then, they measured levels of 2-AG, a chemical released by the brain’s reward system, and the appetite-boosting hormone ghrelin. Both were elevated when the study participants were chowing down on their favorite foods, but not when they were eating the other meal. (Read a synopsis of the study here.)
That led scientists to raise the possibility that food can be an addiction in the same way drugs are. In fact, there are ongoing studies looking at whether naltrexone, the medication that diminishes the appetite for certain recreational drugs, may have the same effect on the appetite for food. (Learn more about how your brain chemistry can make you binge here.)
Until those studies are completed, we may be left with 100-year-old advice from humorist Mark Twain, who wrote, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”
It’s not pleasant, but there you have it.
For more great health and lifestyle content, check out the rest of Completely You
Denise Foley is Completely You’s “News You Can Use” blogger. She is a veteran health writer, the former deputy editor and editor at large of Prevention, and co-author of four books on women’s health and parenting.