Have you ever tried to give up sugar? Or maybe salty, starchy snacks? Just like detoxing from drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes, detoxing from sugar and other junk foods can cause withdrawal type symptoms with severe cravings and headaches. If you have tried strict paleo for 30 days, you may have experienced some “withdrawal” symptoms giving up certain foods.
The word for those sugary, starchy, fatty, and salty foods is hyperpalables. Can these foods affect us in a similar manner as drug addiction? The answer is yes!
First off, it is important to understand what dopamine is and it’s relationship to food addiction. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (basically a signal in the brain) that motivates us to seek rewards and signals when rewards are present. For someone on cocaine or heroine, these drugs can take over this reward system. Researches who are studying obesity from the standpoint of addiction neuroscience are now finding that appetite-controlling hormones can also hijack the reward system just as cocaine would for a drug addict.
Researchers have found that obese people have significantly less number of dopamine receptors than people who are average weight. In order to get the same reward experience, or “high” they have to eat more or eat more of certain foods. They also studied what happens to the brain when a person is exposed to a certain food and not allowed to eat it. There is a surge of dopamine, and that is why you may be tempted to eat something like dessert when it’s right in front of you, even though you are not hungry.
So how exactly does food addiction develop? When dopamine continually floods the brain there is a down regulation of dopamine receptors. As a result, a greater amount of hyperpalables is needed to elicit the same level of reward. This cycle continues and as the dopamine receptors continue to down regulate someone will have to eat more and more. This also makes it difficult for someone to stop eating these foods after just one or two bites. This is why it is difficult to stress moderation to someone who is addicted to hyperpalatables.
How can you recognize that you have a food addiction? In my next blog post I’ll post a quiz that you can take, and what to do if you in fact do have some type of food addiction.
Info for blog taken from:
Peeke, Pamela. “The Dopamine Made Me Do It.” IDEA Fitness Journal. Oct. 2012. 34-42. Print.