Junk Food May Limit Children's Intelligence and Learning Ability

There is a clear impact of nutrition on the potential development of Alzheimer’s disease and other late-life cognitive disorders.  Green vegetables, berries, and other plant foods reduce risk, whereas animal products and processed foods increase risk.1-4  However, the damaging effects of unhealthy foods on the brain occur throughout life.  Research suggests that the typical American childhood diet including burgers, pasta, pizza, chicken nuggets, french fries, processed sweetened cold cereals, sweets and soda negatively affects school performance and learning. Overall math performance in the U.S. lags far behind many other developed nations5, and it is likely that the nutrient-poor American diet is a significant contributing factor.

French fries. Flickr: stu_spivack

We as parents are strongly committed to supporting our children’s academic achievement. We want the best for our children, and we take an active interest in their schooling; we do everything we can to make sure that they will be well educated and able to compete as working adults in our increasingly technological world. However, how many parents think about the impact of the foods they give their children on their academic performance?

Early childhood:

Parents must give their children’s brains the right raw materials with which to learn – and start early. Breast milk provides a DHA-rich foundation for a healthy brain, and when solid foods are added, their nutritional quality is of paramount importance for the brain’s continued development. Several studies have now found that dietary patterns in early childhood affect IQ scores years later. In one study, greater consumption of fruits and vegetables upon introducing solid foods was associated with higher IQ and better memory skills when at 4 years of age.6 Similarly in another study, children who regularly ate cookies, chocolate, other sweets, soda, and chips during the first two years of life showed decreased IQ at age 8 compared to children who did not eat these foods. Nutrition during this formative period has a meaningful long-term effect, providing building blocks to construct the growing brain.7 The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, so a healthful, antioxidant-rich diet is especially beneficial for the brain and is likely involved in this link between natural plant foods and higher IQ scores.

Teenage years:

Young children who are fed processed, nutrient-poor foods are likely to become unhealthy teenagers, and eventually unhealthy adults. Twenty-three percent of teens in the U.S. are prediabetic or diabetic, 22% have high or borderline high LDL cholesterol levels, and 14% have hypertension or prehypertension.8

A study tested cognitive abilities and performed brain MRIs on teens with and without metabolic syndrome, a combination of at least three diet-related metabolic abnormalities among a list including insulin resistance, high triglycerides and hypertension. The teens with metabolic syndrome had lower spelling and math scores, lower IQs, and reduced attention span. Their brain MRIs showed a smaller hippocampus, especially in those with insulin resistance – extremely important since the hippocampus is a part of the brain involved in learning new information.9  This means that our American obesity-promoting, diabetic promoting diet actually can cause parts of the brain to shrink.  The researchers concluded that insulin resistance and other components of the metabolic syndrome, as a result of a poor diet, may impair teenagers’ academic performance, and maybe even their learning abilities throughout their lifetime.

The time to feed your children healthfully is now. A diet rich in greens, berries, other fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds is the only way to ensure that children get the array of phytochemicals, antioxidants, fatty acids and other micronutrients to adequately supply their growing and constantly learning brains.  Junk food is not for kids.

 

Image credit: Flickr - stu_spivack

References:

1. Otsuka M, Yamaguchi K, Ueki A. Similarities and differences between Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia from the viewpoint of nutrition. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2002;977:155-161.
2. Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, et al. Dietary fats and the risk of incident Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol 2003;60:194-200.
3. Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Willis LM. Grape juice, berries, and walnuts affect brain aging and behavior. J Nutr 2009;139:1813S-1817S.
4. Devore EE, Kang JH, Breteler MM, et al. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann Neurol 2012.
5. University of Southern California: U.S. Education Spending and Performance vs. the World. [Infographic]. http://mat.usc.edu/u-s-education-versus-the-world-infographic/. Accessed October 12, 2012.
6. Gale CR, Martyn CN, Marriott LD, et al. Dietary patterns in infancy and cognitive and neuropsychological function in childhood. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2009;50:816-823.
7. Smithers LG, Golley RK, Mittinty MN, et al. Dietary patterns at 6, 15 and 24 months of age are associated with IQ at 8 years of age. Eur J Epidemiol 2012;27:525-535.
8. May AL, Kuklina EV, Yoon PW. Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among US Adolescents, 1999-2008. Pediatrics 2012;129:1035.
9. Yau PL, Castro MG, Tagani A, et al. Obesity and metabolic syndrome and functional and structural brain impairments in adolescence. Pediatrics 2012;130:e856-864.

 

 

Exposing the High Cost of Food Addiction

For over twenty years I was addicted to the Standard America Diet, and as a result I overate and became 100 lbs overweight. Consequently, I developed several nutritional diseases: heart disease, pre diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, chronic bronchitis, and boils; just to name a few. And to maintain that obese state I had to consume at least 3700 calories a day.  

Last year I calculated the average food expenses of my indulgent eating habit and was nearly shocked at what I discovered. 

Basically, I was eating in excess of $4,500 / year than I am now as a Nutritarian. My entanglement with the Standard America Diet drained at least $90,000 from the family budget over a 20 year period of time! 

Numbers don’t lie. The following is the cost comparison of weekly food expenses for one person, Yours truly, Emily Boller:

 

THEN

 

 

NOW

 

 1 loaf of bread

3.90

 

 lettuce

10.00

 ½ lb of butter

2.00

 

 kale, collards, spinach

10.00

 honey

2.00

 

 colorful vegetables

10.00

 peanut butter

3.50

 

 fresh fruit

20.00

 2 bottles of dressing

5.00

 

 frozen fruit

 7.00

 1 lb cheese

5.00

 

 nuts/seeds/flax

 7.00

 32 oz. yogurt

7.00

 

 oats (on occasion)

 3.00

 32 oz. cottage cheese

6.00

 

 mushrooms

 7.00

 microwave popcorn

7.00

 

 onions

 3.00

 1 gallon of milk

3.50

 

 beans (dry / bulk)

 5.00

 2 quarts ice cream

7.00

 

 tomato paste

 5.00

 candy

7.00

 

 TOTAL

87.00

 processed cereal

7.00

     

 mixed vegetables

5.00

     

 lettuce

7.00

     

 carrots

2.00

     

 chips & crackers

7.00

     

 fruit

7.00

     

 cookies

5.00

     

 frozen pizza

5.00

     

 lasagna

3.00

     

 meatloaf

3.00

     

 chicken breasts

6.00

     

 roast beef

3.00

     

 deli meats

5.00

     

 mayonnaise

2.00

     

 macaroni and cheese

3.00

     

 garlic bread

3.00

     

 rolls and biscuits

3.00

     

 Subway meal

7.00

     

 diet sodas

14.00

     

 Dairy Queen

5.00

     

 chewing gum

2.00

     

 ice cream novelties

4.00

     

 TOTAL

166.90

 

 

 

 

THEN: $166.90* / week = $8,678.80 / year

*This amount excludes coffee and alcohol addiction; this number would've been much higher with daily stops at Starbucks or alcohol purchases.  Also, I was "only" 100 lbs. overweight so this amount would've been much higher if I would've been heavier as well.

 

NOW:   $ 87.00* / week = $4,524.00 / year

*This amount excludes backyard gardening; this number can be significantly reduced with homegrown produce.

 

 

 

Add to my former expenses a quarterly visit to an endocrinologist and a cardiologist, lab tests, surgical procedures, hospitalizations, and the various prescription and over-the-counter drugs that I had to take . . . .gluttony not only robbed me and my family of a quality life, it drained the budget as well, big time!

None of us can afford being addicted to the Standard American Diet. Food addiction is nothing to joke about. It robs and destroys health, relationships, careers, dreams, and financial resources. Instead, making the commitment to Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian approach is not only health promoting, it is cost effective as well. 

 

Here’s to great health, a quality life, and money in the bank to all!

Rising numbers of new mothers breastfeeding

Baby. Flickr: storyvillegirlAugust is National Breastfeeding month. Between 2000 and 2010 the percentage of new mothers who chose to nurse their babies climbed. In 2000, 35 percent of new moms nursed for six months, and 16 percent nursed for at least one year; in 2010 those numbers rose to 49 percent and 27 percent.1 This is excellent news for the health of our nation’s children, as it is well known that breastfeeding is associated with a multitude of health benefits for both the child and mother.2 Breast milk is the ideal food for infants, a naturally complex combination of nutritional and immunologic factors that cannot be replicated by formula.

 

Benefits of breastfeeding for the child:

  • Development of the immune system:

The immune system is not yet fully active upon birth, and children are especially vulnerable to respiratory and gastrointestinal tract infections during the first two years of life.  Breast milk has a “programming” effect on the immune system, providing antibodies that protect the baby from infection, antimicrobial compounds, and a variety of immunomodulatory substances that promote the maturation of immune function. Also there is new evidence that breast milk also contains healthy bacteria that may help to populate the baby’s gut flora.3 The immune benefits of breast milk translate into a reduced risk of allergies, asthma, eczema, diarrhea, respiratory conditions and ear infections in early life.

  • Reduced risk of overweight in childhood:

Breast-fed infants grow more slowly and are leaner during the first two years of life compared to formula-fed infants, likely due to the lower protein content of breast milk compared to formula.4 This early slow growth may exert a long-duration protective effect, since the risk of overweight in childhood and adolescence is reduced by 22% in breast-fed infants.5

  • Reduced risk of childhood leukemia.2
  • Reduced risk of type 1 diabetes in childhood.4
  • Enhanced cognitive development and school achievement, likely due to the DHA content of breast milk. The first year of life is a crucial time for brain development, and DHA-rich breast milk provides the building blocks for the baby’s brain.5\
  • Adults who were breast-fed as infants have a reduced risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and premenopausal breast cancer.2, 5-8

Benefits of breastfeeding for the mother:

  • Reduced risk of breast cancer, possibly due to the reduced exposure to ovarian hormones. A large-meta-analysis found that the risk of breast cancer decreases by 4.3 percent for every year of breastfeeding.9
  • More favorable lipid, glucose and insulin levels.4
  • Longer duration of breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. In the Nurses’ Health Study, there was a 14-15 percent decrease in risk for each year of breastfeeding.10
  • Reduced weight retention after giving birth.4

Optimal duration of breastfeeding

I agree with the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which are for exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, with continued supplemental breastfeeding to two years. Two years is likely the appropriate age because it is the time at which the spaces between the cells lining the baby’s gastrointestinal tract close; before that time, those spaces allow the mother’s protective antibodies from breast milk to be absorbed. Data from the CDC, although the trend is promising, suggest that breast feeding in the U.S. is not adequate – three-quarters of infants are no longer being breast-fed by their first birthday.

Proper nutrition is vitally important to health during all stages of life, and especially during the rapid cellular growth that occurs during fetal development and infancy. Early nutrition is a significant determinant of long-term health, and it starts with a woman’s nutritional status even before she becomes pregnant, followed by good nutrition throughout pregnancy and nursing, and then setting a good nutritional example for children. Breastfeeding is most protective of a child’s health when the mother is in good health. 

 

References:

1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding Report Card. United States/2013. 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2013BreastfeedingReportCard.pdf. Accessed
2. Hoddinott P, Tappin D, Wright C: Breast feeding. BMJ 2008;336:881-887.
3. M'Rabet L, Vos AP, Boehm G, et al: Breast-feeding and its role in early development of the immune system in infants: consequences for health later in life. J Nutr 2008;138:1782S-1790S.
4. Gunderson EP: Breast-feeding and diabetes: long-term impact on mothers and their infants. Curr Diab Rep 2008;8:279-286.
5. Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses. World Health Organization; 2007.
6. Owen CG, Martin RM, Whincup PH, et al: Effect of infant feeding on the risk of obesity across the life course: a quantitative review of published evidence. Pediatrics 2005;115:1367-1377.
7. Owen CG, Whincup PH, Kaye SJ, et al: Does initial breastfeeding lead to lower blood cholesterol in adult life? A quantitative review of the evidence. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:305-314.
8. Martin RM, Middleton N, Gunnell D, et al: Breast-feeding and cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort and a systematic review with meta-analysis. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005;97:1446-1457.
9. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast C: Breast cancer and breastfeeding: collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries, including 50302 women with breast cancer and 96973 women without the disease. Lancet 2002;360:187-195.
10. Stuebe AM, Rich-Edwards JW, Willett WC, et al: Duration of lactation and incidence of type 2 diabetes. JAMA 2005;294:2601-2610.
 

A Young Adult Kicks the Junk Food Habit

Ruth is a newlywed with a full-time job and active lifestyle who has successfully learned to embrace the nutritarian diet-style 100%. Even though she was raised on the typical standard American diet of “home cooked meals” and fast food, and was addicted to junk food, she’s been a Nutritarian for a couple of years now and loves it. Welcome to Onlyourhealth, Ruth.

What was your life like before discovering Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian approach?

I grew up in a home where the evening meal usually consisted of a main entrée such as spaghetti, lasagna, meatloaf, roast beef, fried chicken, stir fry, or pizza; and bread, butter and milk were staples at every meal. And on busy nights we ate plenty of fast food as well. Breakfast was usually a bowl of processed cereal and milk, and lunch was a deli meat sandwich, chicken nuggets, pizza pockets, or macaroni and cheese. We always had sweets available to eat so I loved cookies, ice cream and chocolates of all kinds.

When I could drive, I had a part-time job at a coffee shop that sold baked goods. At closing, employees could take home the day’s leftovers that didn’t sell: yeast rolls, cinnamon rolls, scones, cookies, etc., and consequently I became addicted to coffee drinks and sweets; in fact, by my late teen years I didn’t eat much else. However, I was tired and sick all the time. I had colds continually and took over-the-counter meds to treat the symptoms. 

 

How did you find out about Dr. Fuhrman? 

My mom had lost a lot of weight by following his nutritarian diet-style and felt so much better, which inspired me. She gave me a copy of Eat for Health, and after reading it, I applied some of the information. Over time, as I learned more, I eventually committed 100%; both feet in.

 

How do you feel now?

I have so much more energy now, and I never get sick. I haven’t had a sick day from work since fully committing to eating this way. My skin is clear, and I’ve noticed that I don’t have bad breath or body odor anymore, and I’m also thirty pounds less than what I weighed in high school. The energy I now have enables me to keep up with a full-time job and active lifestyle. 

 

What are your success tips?

 

  • No matter how busy life gets I always make time for shopping and food prep. I spend less than an hour a week cleaning and cutting up all the vegetables. This is a time saver when I’m in a hurry and need to pack my lunch, assemble a salad, or make dinner.

  • I drink a green smoothie in the mornings after my workout and before I leave for work. It energizes me, and I feel so good to start the day.

 

Congratulations Ruth for taking the necessary steps to kick the junk food habit and live in the best health that’s possible!

 

Was George W. Bush's stent necessary?

The controversy surrounding the proper treatment of stable heart disease was highlighted when former President George W. Bush’s decided to have a stent placed, even though he had not had a heart attack and was not experiencing angina (chest pain caused by restricted blood flow to the heart). During an annual exam, his stress test showed an abnormality; then an angiography showed a blockage, and President Bush and his physicians decided to proceed with stenting. Of course, we don’t know all the details of President Bush’s condition, but the situation brought to light an important issue in healthcare in the U.S.: having a stent placed in the absence of symptoms is common in the U.S., but is it good medicine or malpractice?

Heart

I have written previously about the COURAGE trial – a large and important study published in 2007, whose conclusion was that angioplasty and stent procedures (percutaneous coronary interventions or PCI) did not offer any survival advantage over medications alone. After five years of follow-up, the group of patients receiving PCI did not have fewer heart attacks or cardiac deaths than the group who received optimal medical therapy (OMT; modest lifestyle changes plus anti-platelet, blood pressure-lowering, and cholesterol-lowering medications).1  Later on, meta-analyses of COURAGE and similar trials have confirmed the lack of advantage of PCI over OMT.2,3 Further studies confirmed that PCI also did not provide any advantage over OMT for relief of angina symptoms (read more here).4 In light of this data, 2012 guidelines from the American Heart Association and related health agencies recommend medical therapy and lifestyle changes rather than these interventional or surgical procedures for first-line treatment of most patients with stable ischemic heart disease to reduce the risk of heart attack and death.

So, having an angioplasty or stent procedure does not provide any added protection against heart attacks or cardiac deaths in patients with stable coronary artery disease. But is there any harm in performing these procedures?  

With every surgical procedure, there are risks and side effects. These aggressive coronary interventions carry the risk of serious adverse outcomes, such as bleeding complications, heart attack, stroke, and death.5 Stenting is appropriate and can be lifesaving in emergency situations, for immediate clearing of an artery and restoration of blood flow. But as the COURAGE trial has shown, for stable patients, stents do not offer benefit. In addition, stenting is of course more expensive than medications and lifestyle changes, adding to our current health care spending crisis. A cost-effectiveness analysis of the COURAGE trial estimated that PCI added $10,000 to the lifetime cost of treatment without providing any significant gain in lifespan.6 Multiply that $10,000 by the number of angioplasty and stent procedures performed in the U.S. every year, which is about 492,000 (the vast majority are non-emergency procedures).7

PCI is not a long-term solution to coronary artery disease.  Approximately 21% of stent placements clog up again (called restenosis) within 6 months, and about 60% of arteries treated by angioplasty and stenting eventually will undergo restenosis.8,9 PCI treats only a small portion of a vessel, while atherosclerotic plaque continues to develop at many sites throughout the cardiovascular system.  Most often the most risky and vulnerable plaque areas are not those that are most obstructing and treated with stenting.  It is worse because the patient is led to believe they are now protected and continues the dangerous eating style that was the initial cause of the heart disease; consequently, the heart disease progresses. 

President Bush needed aggressive nutritional counseling and potentially life-saving nutritional information. It sounds like he was not properly informed of these studies documenting the ineffectiveness of PCI and the value of the proper dietary intervention. If not, I consider that malpractice. Every potential candidate for angioplasty (PCI) should know that their disease can be effectively reversed via superior nutrition and that surgical interventions are not protective against future events. Remember too, that almost half of all those on optimal medical therapy for high cholesterol and high blood pressure, still ultimately suffer heart attacks. Was President Bush informed about Dr. Ornish’s Lifestyle Heart Trial, which scientifically documented that lifestyle changes alone can reverse coronary artery disease? Even President Clinton could have shared his experience and expertise, since he worsened after his PCI and is doing well after adopting a healthy vegan diet. Who knows what happened, but it seems unlikely given the media reports. It sounds like President Bush was misinformed about PCI by his doctors and given the false impression this procedure was life-extending and lifesaving. Certainly the media reports gave this impression to the American people that this procedure was necessary for him.

Every day, patients are counseled to undergo these unnecessary and potentially dangerous procedures by their cardiologists. Instead, an arterial blockage should be seen as a wake-up call, a motivating factor to pursue optimal health via superior nutrition and exercise. Optimal medical therapy is not enough; heart disease is preventable and reversible with optimal nutritional therapy, which produces dramatically more effective results than PCI or OMT and dramatic protection against future cardiac events. In my clinical experience with hundreds of patients with advanced heart disease, I have seen dramatic and consistent reversal of heart disease, relief of angina symptoms, and future freedom from heart disease in those who have chosen to follow my Nutritarian eating style.  President Bush and his doctors had an opportunity to be a public example to educate and motivate other Americans to change their dangerous ways. I hope in the future President Bush has the opportunity to make a lifesaving decision based on accurate information, before it is too late.

 

Read stories of heart disease reversal with a Nutritarian diet.


References:
1. Boden WE, O'Rourke RA, Teo KK, et al: Optimal medical therapy with or without PCI for stable coronary disease. N Engl J Med 2007;356:1503-1516.
2. Trikalinos TA, Alsheikh-Ali AA, Tatsioni A, et al: Percutaneous coronary interventions for non-acute coronary artery disease: a quantitative 20-year synopsis and a network meta-analysis. Lancet 2009;373:911-918.
3. Stergiopoulos K, Brown DL: Initial coronary stent implantation with medical therapy vs medical therapy alone for stable coronary artery disease: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med 2012;172:312-319.
4. Relief from Angina Symptoms: Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Not a Clear Winner. 2010. Journal Watch General Medicine. Accessed July 1, 2010.
5. Angioplasty and stent placement - heart. MedlinePlus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007473.htm. Accessed July 1, 2010.
6. Weintraub WS, Boden WE, Zhang Z, et al: Cost-effectiveness of percutaneous coronary intervention in optimally treated stable coronary patients. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes 2008;1:12-20.
7. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, et al: Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics--2013 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation 2013;127:e6-e245.
8. Agostoni P, Valgimigli M, Biondi-Zoccai GG, et al: Clinical effectiveness of bare-metal stenting compared with balloon angioplasty in total coronary occlusions: insights from a systematic overview of randomized trials in light of the drug-eluting stent era. Am Heart J 2006;151:682-689.
9. Hanekamp C, Koolen J, Bonnier H, et al: Randomized comparison of balloon angioplasty versus silicon carbon-coated stent implantation for de novo lesions in small coronary arteries. Am J Cardiol 2004;93:1233-1237.

Eating for Health Isn't Extreme; It's Essential

We live in a toxic environment. Even the good ole’ fresh country air isn’t what it use to be. Not long ago I was riding my bike in a nearby rural county, and a crop dusting plane flew overhead and began spraying a cornfield in the distance. I turned around to avoid the residue, but then the plane circled and came my way to spray another field.  

I grew up on a farm, and one of the highlights of summer was creating makeshift rafts to float in flooded soybean fields after a heavy rainfall; giving no thought to the poisonous, chemical run-off from the fields that would’ve been in the water. 

Even suburban housing additions are full of toxins as chemicals are applied to well-manicured lawns. And, of course, cities have their own set of poisons floating around in the air; not to mention the toxic foods that many of us may have eaten since childhood. Our bodies have been, and will continue to be inundated with toxins in one way or other; unless one has the privilege of living on a pristine island in Utopia.

And that’s one of the many reasons why it’s essential for all of us to fully embrace the nutritarian diet-style.    

Every bite of food that we put into our mouth counts.

Although certain chemicals can damage the body, repair can most likely happen if we are healthy and not continually exposed to them.  Therefore, it's crucial that we eat right and minimize our exposure to toxins and chemicals. 

But it takes a firm and radical commitment.      

“It takes more than moderate changes to wipe out the cellular damage that happens earlier in life.”   Dr. Fuhrman

We must turn a deaf ear to the naysayers that incorrectly and ignorantly believe that eating for health is extreme. And we must consume nutrients that build up our immune system, cleanse chemicals and toxins, and protect against disease.   

Following Dr Fuhrman’s nutritional protocol 100% to prevent the growth of cancer cells and disease is not extreme; it’s essential.

Here’s to optimal health to all!

 

Related post:  The 90 Percent Rule

 

Image credits: Crop dusting, flickr by chaunceydavid818; Pollution, flickr by ribamica

 

 

 

High-glycemic foods may fuel addictive cravings

For most people, hunger is not the only factor that influences eating behaviors, and some have more difficulty regulating their food intake than others. Scientists have proposed the excessively sweet, salty, and/or fatty (“highly palatable”) foods common in the standard American diet can produce addiction-like effects in the human brain, driving loss of self-control, overeating, and weight gain.1, 2 In fact, the behavioral and neurobiochemical characteristics of substance abuse and overeating are quite similar, and the idea of food addiction is becoming more widely accepted among scientists.3-6

Dopamine is a brain chemical that is involved in motivation, pleasure and reward. The dopamine reward system has been shown to be involved in overeating behaviors in animals, and the effects are similar to those of drug dependence.7 Studies on brain activity in humans have provided preliminary evidence supporting the idea that overeating alters the dopamine reward system, which then acts to drive further overeating. Substance abuse is known to reduce the numbers of dopamine receptors (called D2 receptors) in the brain, and this is thought to underlie the tolerance associated with addiction – over time, greater amounts of the substance are required to reach the same level of reward because the reward response has been reduced. Similarly, in the context of food addiction, reduced numbers of dopamine D2 receptors have been reported in obese compared to lean humans, and the dopamine reward response becomes diminished over a period of weight gain.8-11 The dopamine reward response is also reduced among women with bulimia compared to healthy women.12 Frequent consumption of ice cream was shown to reduce the reward response in adolescents.13 Together, these studies imply that overeating results in a diminished dopamine reward response, resulting in a constant cycle of overeating and a progressively worsening addiction to low-nutrient, highly palatable foods.

White bread

One new study investigated the relationship between the intensity of the blood glucose response to a certain food and the degree of activity in a reward-related region of the brain. Overweight and obese men were given either a high-glycemic index (GI) or low-GI shake (identical in number of calories and macronutrient distribution), and cerebral blood flow was measured four hours after the meal. The high-GI meal resulted in higher ratings of hunger and greater activation of the right nucleus accumbens, a brain region involved in pleasure, dopamine reward, and addiction.14 This study implies that the size of the blood glucose spike produced by a food correlates to the size of the addictive drive it produces in the brain.

This study provides more support for avoiding refined, high-glycemic foods, such as sugars, white flour products, white potatoes and white rice, because foods with a high glycemic load can promote cravings, possibly in part via the dopamine reward system, especially in those suffering with food addiction and struggling to lose weight.  Whereas beans’ low glycemic load promotes satiety, and according to this new research, would reduce the potential for activating reward centers and producing addictive cravings making them the preferred carbohydrate choice.

 

References:
1. Cocores JA, Gold MS: The Salted Food Addiction Hypothesis may explain overeating and the obesity epidemic. Med Hypotheses 2009;73:892-899.
2. Ifland JR, Preuss HG, Marcus MT, et al: Refined food addiction: a classic substance use disorder. Med Hypotheses 2009;72:518-526.
3. Gearhardt AN, Yokum S, Orr PT, et al: Neural Correlates of Food Addiction. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2011.
4. Volkow ND, Wang GJ, Fowler JS, et al: Food and drug reward: overlapping circuits in human obesity and addiction. Curr Top Behav Neurosci 2012;11:1-24.
5. Avena NM, Gold JA, Kroll C, et al: Further developments in the neurobiology of food and addiction: update on the state of the science. Nutrition 2012;28:341-343.
6. Fortuna JL: The obesity epidemic and food addiction: clinical similarities to drug dependence. J Psychoactive Drugs 2012;44:56-63.
7. Johnson PM, Kenny PJ: Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats. Nat Neurosci 2010;13:635-641.
8. Stice E, Yokum S, Blum K, et al: Weight gain is associated with reduced striatal response to palatable food. J Neurosci 2010;30:13105-13109.
9. Wang GJ, Volkow ND, Logan J, et al: Brain dopamine and obesity. Lancet 2001;357:354-357.
10. Taylor VH, Curtis CM, Davis C: The obesity epidemic: the role of addiction. Can Med Assoc J 2009;182:327-328.
11. Volkow ND, Wang GJ, Telang F, et al: Low dopamine striatal D2 receptors are associated with prefrontal metabolism in obese subjects: possible contributing factors. Neuroimage 2008;42:1537-1543.
12. Bohon C, Stice E: Reward abnormalities among women with full and subthreshold bulimia nervosa: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Int J Eat Disord 2010.
13. Burger KS, Stice E: Frequent ice cream consumption is associated with reduced striatal response to receipt of an ice cream-based milkshake. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:810-817.
14. Lennerz BS, Alsop DC, Holsen LM, et al: Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men. Am J Clin Nutr 2013.