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Islander
03-14-11, 10:48 AM
Written by Jon Barron at The Baseline of Health Foundation
March 14, 2011

Ever wonder why it's so difficult to resist eating fattening food? We all know on an intellectual level the harmful effects it has on our bodies, yet for many people, cravings frequently outweigh common sense. Now, it seems there may be some scientific evidence behind this behavior.

In a study led by the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, Dr. Paul Kenny and his colleagues divided rats into three groups and then headed to the grocery store. "We basically bought all of the stuff that people really like -- Ding-Dongs, cheesecake, bacon, sausage, [chocolate frosting, pound cake] -- the stuff that you enjoy, but you really shouldn't eat too often," he said. They also bought healthy food. Each group of rats followed a different diet for 40 days. The rats in the first group ate healthy, regular rat food only. In the second group, the rats got healthy rat food plus an hour of access daily to junk food. The third group had unlimited access to both health food and junk -- like most humans do.

The rats that had access to the treats only an hour a day managed to cram most of their eating into that blissful hour, eschewing the rat food the rest of the time. Meanwhile, the third group of rats -- those who had round-the-clock access to treats -- quickly turned obese and demonstrated a strong preference for Ding Dongs and cheesecake and the like. But their food preferences weren't the only change the rats experienced.

The researchers found that the brain circuitry in the junk-food-gorging rats actually changed. The more high-fat treats the rats ate, the more they craved treats in the future -- the more treats it took on subsequent feedings for them to experience satisfaction. In other words, they developed "tolerance," just the way junkies and alcoholics do, needing more and more of the "junk-food substance" in order to achieve a pleasure "rush."

"It was quite profound," says study author Paul Kenny. "The reward-response effects in the junk-food rats were very similar to what we see with animals that use cocaine and heroin." The response became even more pronounced as the rats gained more weight. The fatty treats also seemed to lower levels of a dopamine receptor in the brain of the rats.

In humans, lowered levels of dopamine receptors lead to increased pleasure-seeking behavior. Under normal conditions, dopamine deprivation excites normal desire or motivation, but in the case of the rats, eating junk foods made the deprivation severe enough to drive the mild desire to pathological levels.

Perhaps the most shocking discovery of all, though, was the finding that the addicted rats absolutely refused regular food, even after their treats were taken away. They chose to starve rather than return to rat kibble. "They actually voluntarily starved themselves," Kenny said.

So, how do you break the cycle if you've found yourself addicted to fatty foods?

Realizing it could be an addiction is the first step. Treat the situation as you would if you were helping a friend or family member cope with an addiction to another substance. Remove all the "offending" foods from your home. Find alternatives that "trick" you into feeling satisfied. Try fruit for sweet cravings. Eat raisin bread instead of sweet breads and danishes. Find other other activities that keep you busy and enlist the help of friends and family to help get you through your weak moments. Just like any addiction or bad habit, the longer you've done it the more difficult it can be to change your behavior. Keep that in mind, and don't beat yourself up if you temporarily fall of the wagon.

Material originally published at www.jonbarron.org.
Copyright © 1999-2011. Baseline of Health® Foundation
Used by permission of the Baseline of Health® Foundation.
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For more about this study, click here (http://go.emaildir2.com/l/a/d5i/m/a2w/36/zqt/click.emaildirect).

Reesacat
03-14-11, 12:13 PM
Since they bought commercial junk food, I would think the MSG and High Fructose Corn Syrup plus other chemicals would contribute to the addiction process.
I have seen this-we have had several patients that literally ate themselves to death-it was an addiction as severe as cocaine or alcohol.

Aaltrude
03-14-11, 03:45 PM
MSG in particular is known to be addictive.

mellowsong
03-14-11, 04:21 PM
Usually I think Jon Barron is right on, but not this evaluation of this study. For one thing...what do they define as "healthy" rat food? I'll bet it is no relation at all to what they would eat in the wild. Then, how the heck do they know it was the fat and not the other garbage in the "junk food" that caused this behavior. I believe that sugar, HFCS, MSG as mentioned below are much more likely culprits in food addiction than the fat. Don't forget..adequate amounts of the RIGHT fats are absolutely necessary to a healthy diet.

Islander
03-14-11, 04:32 PM
Usually I think Jon Barron is right on, but not this evaluation of this study. For one thing...what do they define as "healthy" rat food? I'll bet it is no relation at all to what they would eat in the wild. Then, how the heck do they know it was the fat and not the other garbage in the "junk food" that caused this behavior. I believe that sugar, HFCS, MSG as mentioned below are much more likely culprits in food addiction than the fat. Don't forget..adequate amounts of the RIGHT fats are absolutely necessary to a healthy diet.
I would blame his misuse of the phrase "fatty foods" because everything else he says seems to be accurate. He's talking about the gestalt of junk food, not just the fat content.

Reesacat
03-14-11, 04:48 PM
Still chuckling at Mellow's savy point about "What is HEALTHY rat food"?!!!

Maurya
03-14-11, 06:23 PM
IMHO the problem with the phrase "fatty foods" would be that it usually refers to foods quite high in carbohydrates, that also are high in fats for the sole purpose of giving them some flavor. High carb, low fat foods are notorious for tasting like cardboard, which accounts for no one wanting to eat them.

Usually fats that are integral with a steak or other meat from a pasture fed animal, or the fat that is found in the yolk of an egg are not the "fatty foods" that even are studied. Of course these foods are not found to be conducive to any disease process.

Islander
02-09-13, 11:07 AM
Lavy, the whole popular advice that fat is dangerous is a myth. Diets high in fat, modest in protein and very low in the starchy carbs (bread, noodles, rice etc.) are good for us and help maintain or lose weight. The problem is finding healthy fats! Fat from industrial meat and poultry is too contaminated to be healthy. What you want is fat from pastured or free-range animals, butter from grass-fed cows, organic coconut oil, organic olive oil, eggs from free-range chickens. These are not always easy to find, but fat is satisfying and lessens hunger...whereas starchy carbs and junk food increase hunger, making you want to eat more and more. Look through the NUTRITION IN GENERAL forum for more on this topic.

Julieanne
02-10-13, 03:29 AM
All animals recognise fats as a source of high calorie food, which is not readily available in the wild. We are also animals, but unfortunately for us fat is all too easily found. My friend's chickens used to go crazy over any fat they were given, which was rarely.