The results of a recent study indicate that food is just as addictive as many drugs. When rats were fed foods with high fructose corn syrup, they reacted in a way similar to rats who were fed cocaine. The study’s results indicate that worldwide obesity is be best viewed as a disease and an addiction.
Francesco Leri, a famous addictions expert and Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Guelph, presented his “Food Addiction” findings at the 2013 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting. He studied rats that consumed sugary foods like Oreos. The increased availability of such foods over the past couple of decades is not the sole reason for the obesity epidemic. Leri believes that human beings, just like the rats in his study, can become addicted to certain foods. He is certain that certain individuals are more prone to addiction than others so he is focusing his work on identifying the biological markers that indicate one’s predisposition towards a food addiction.
The rats in the study were so drawn to the Oreos that they replicated their human counterparts by going right for the luscious cream in the middle of the cookie. The researchers actually found out that more pleasure inducing neurons were stimulated in the brain during the eating of these cookies than when taking drugs. This explains why human beings just can’t stop eating those sugar and fat laden sweets and salty snacks even though we fully understand that there will be harmful consequences down the road. All in all, the rats in the study spent equal amounts of time with their cocaine as they did with their Oreos.
In a separate study, mice switched off of a high fat diet after six weeks exhibited withdrawal symptoms like cravings and nervousness. Their brains showed activity similar to the brains of mice that were undergoing withdrawal from a drug like cocaine. Mice addicted to both fatty food and drugs each show similarly spiked dopamine levels. Yet most people would never guess this to be the truth. We are socially coaxed into thinking that we should be grateful for any food and that there’s nothing wrong with a momentary splurge on a comfort food. To fully understand why so many people can’t stop eating, we have to become more objective about foods and begin to view it as a substance that is as deadly as a street drug.
Obesity impacts health in several negative ways like hypertension, stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Something must be done when food has become so precisely concocted that it stimulates our brains in the same manner as cocaine. And the solutions won’t come from the addicts or the businesses pushing the goods. It has to come from a neutral third party that polices the food industry and the public’s welfare. Does such a neutral third party exist in our time of crony capitalism where the rules are almost always written by the players of the game?
Since more than 1.4 billion human beings are labeled as overweight and 500 million labeled obese, leading food scientists, biologists and addictions experts are looking for an explanation. With the spread of consumer capitalism and the opening of markets, obesity is spreading across the globe. Fatty, salty and sugary foods created by multinational corporations are sold to people all over the world without hesitation. Experts are now considering the industry to be legalized drug peddling, except the tasty foods are the drugs. This has to be addressed either through more selective eating, laws, or public education programs that teach people how to properly eat.