Junk food - as addictive as smoking??


In Eat for Health, Dr. Fuhrman states that food addiction is the main reason that people eat too much and become overweight.

A study presented at the Society for Neuroscience national meeting last week agrees with this statement. Scientists presented their findings – that high-fat, high-calorie foods are addictive.

These scientists allowed rats to eat readily available, processed junk foods (such as sausages, bacon, and assorted cakes) at will for 18 hours a day – after only five days, they noted evidence of reduced sensitivity in the pleasure centers of the brain, which is a classic indicator of addiction. The rats were increasingly motivated to eat the junk food, consuming about double the number of calories as control rats - they soon needed to consume more food in order to get the same “high.” Even when the rats were given a foot shock upon eating the unhealthy food, they continued to eat. They found these results are similar to those of addictive drugs such as heroin. 

The addictive properties of the unhealthy food essentially support two biologic mechanisms of addiction. One, dopamine stimulation and two withdrawal supporting Dr. Fuhrman's explanation  of toxic hunger – detox symptoms from an addiction to unhealthy, low-nutrient foods. Most people eat more unhealthy food in order to relieve the discomfort of these symptoms, interpreting them to be true hunger. But this simply postpones the detoxification process, and perpetuates a cycle of unhealthy eating.

Unlike the rats in the study, we know the difference between addictive low-nutrient foods, and health-promoting high-nutrient foods. Without understanding the science behind food addictions, it becomes nearly impossible for people to follow a healthy diet or lose weight. Are you a food addict or are you a nutritarian? Did Dr. Fuhrman's information enable you to lose your food addictions?  Let us know.



1. Johnson PM, Kenny PJ. Motivational drives in obesity: Evidence for addiction-like compulsive responding for palatable food. Program No. 550.1/X15. 2009 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Chicago, IL: Society for Neuroscience, 2009. Online.