Food Addiction: It is not your fault, it is not about willpower

Food Addiction: It is not your fault, it is not about willpower.

Do you remember those old commercials with the whole egg- “This is your brain.” Then the egg is cracked into a hot frying pan- “This is your brain on drugs.” That commercial could have said-“This is your brain on sugar.” The effect of sugar on your brain is frighteningly similar to the effect of drugs on your brain.  Sugar is just another white powder- like cocaine; in fact, current research shows that intense sweetness surpasses the cocaine reward response in the brain.
Bart Hoebel is a Professor of Psychology, in the Program of Neuroscience, at Princeton University. At the recent Obesity and Food Addiction Summit, Hoebel presented 10 years of research that was designed to test the theory that sugar can be addictive. The results were conclusive -sugar is addictive. Sugar, said Hoebel, triggers production of the brain's natural opioids. Opioids are the brain’s feel-good chemicals. "We think that is a key to the addiction process," he said. "The brain is getting addicted to its own opioids as it would to morphine or heroin. Drugs give a bigger effect, but it is essentially the same process."
When you eat sugar, a multitude of physiologic processes take place that affect your entire body, and especially your brain. Sugar and sugar products are so devoid of fiber and other nutrients that they digest rapidly, raising blood glucose. So you get a rush of energy, your brain releases dopamine and endorphins and you feel happy, calm, relaxed and self-confident. just like an addict does when they use drugs. But the quick raise in blood sugar falls quickly as well, causing rapid mood swing and leads to depression, anxiety, frustration and exhaustion, just like "coming down" from a drug induced high. This leads to another craving for another "quick pick me up," much like a "fix" for a drug user.
In the recent studies, after a few weeks of bingeing on sugar, the animals being tested showed neurochemical changes in the brain similar to what is seen with addictive drugs such as heroin. When the animals were given naloxone, a drug that block’s the brain’s opioid receptors, they showed signs of withdrawal such as teeth chattering, anxiety and changes in dopamine release similar to morphine, alcohol or nicotine withdrawal. If the animals couldn’t get sugar, they showed increased hyperactivity in response to amphetamine and were prone to drinking alcohol! Sound familiar?
Serge Ahmed is a scientist who specializes in addiction research in Bordeaux, France has found that virtually all the animals he tested preferred saccharin sweetened water over intravenous cocaine, a highly addictive drug. Interestingly, this preference for saccharin is not attributable to sugars unnatural ability to induce sweetness without calories, because the same preference was also observed with an equal concentration of sucrose (a natural sugar) sweetened water. This finding suggests that it is not the chemical makeup of the substance itself that is addictive, but rather the reaction of your body to tasting it and the subsequent neurochemical reaction that is addictive. So, all sweetened foods may be addictive, not just sugar sweetened foods!
The research also showed that sweetened water was preferred over cocaine. The animals tested were more willing to work for sweetened water than cocaine, even if they had to work harder to get it.  What does it mean? Sugar or calorie-free sweetener sweetened water is more addictive than cocaine!
Ahmed and his partners speculate that the addictive potential of intense sweetness results from an inborn sensitivity to sweet tastants; in most mammals, our sweet receptors on our tongues evolved in ancestral environments poor in sugars and are thus not adapted to high concentrations of sweet taste. This means that when we eat sweet foods, which are highly available in today’s society, they act as supranormal stimuli (super stimulants), creating a super reward signal in our brains and that has the potential to override self-control mechanisms. By definition, a supernormal stimulus is more effective than naturally occurring stimuli in controlling behavior and therefore can override normal behaviors. These combined factors make sugar addiction almost unavoidable!
The DMS-5 comes out next year and food addiction will be listed as a substance abuse addiction.  Finally the research is catching up to what we who have this issue already know. This is not an issue of willpower. But you are not alone and with the right help and the right diet you can beat the food industry at their game.

Tiffany Wright, Ph.D. is the founder and lead coach of elementalyou. She earned her doctorate from the University of California and is dedicated to the study of behavior and weight loss with an emphasis on controlling compulsive over eating behavior.

She insists that she is simply a student of life, but if pressed, will admit to an intuitive understanding of people and how what they do to their bodies changes everything.

Combining her studies of obsessive dieting and compulsive over eating, along with continuing academic research on how certain foods cause uncontrollable cravings Tiffany developed the eyou diet.

Finally, a fairly simple solution to those people that have found it impossible to stay on a diet long enough to lose the weight they desire. Tiffany lost 100 pounds following the eyou diet and has kept it off well over a decade.

Utilizing the eyou diet and a set of coaching methods developed through her studies on behavioral modification and personality motivation Tiffany found a way to help women lose weight permanently.

The growing need and interest in her success has lead to the creation of elementalyou.

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