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Chocolate Milkshakes=Cocaine For The Brain

September 28, 2011

I have been meaning to post about this for a long time now, but with the recent devastating loss of the brilliant creator of “Doritos” (thanks to my dear friend Creamonina for her support during this difficult time), I figured that this would be an apt tribute to a man who basically turned me into an addict.

A study was recently conducted which puts a whole new and very real spin on the term “food addiction.”

CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKE AND A LINE OF COCAINE MIGHT NOT BE SO DIFFERENT begins one article. Huh what? Is that why all those celebrities endorse Millions of Milkshakes (I’ll have the Kim Kardashian shake, please? Lindsay Lohan shake, anyone?)? Remember that post I did a while back about fast food milkshakes and their ridiculously high caloric and fat content? Well, I was basically writing about drugs and now there’s proof. “Food addiction is similar to substance dependence, according to researchers at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Obesity Research and Policy.”

Researchers found that the brains of subjects who scored higher on the food addiction scale exhibited neural activity similar to that seen in drug addicts. There was greater activity in brain regions responsible for cravings and less activity in the regions that curb urges.

…The findings suggest that certain triggers, such as advertisements for food, have not just a psychological, but a physiological, effect on certain people. “We found that the high food addiction group showed low inhibition: They have less control in their consumption, and that’s something we’ve seen also in addicts,” [the researcher] said.

Many processed foods trigger strong reward responses in our brains. Our responses to high-sugar, high-fat foods once helped us survive as a species, she says, “but today, foods are so much more rewarding than anything our brains have evolved to handle.”

There are few natural foods that are high in both fat and sugar while many processed foods offer both. She compared these foods to strong drugs like cocaine.

“These are foods that really can sort of hijack our brains.”

A Line of Milkshakes...Or A Line of Cocaine? Does Your Brain Even Know?

This actually makes complete and total sense to me, although I have never heard of a person selling their body or neglecting their kids to get their chocolate milkshake fix…yet. See, for me personally, Doritos are like crack. When I am grocery shopping, I have to run by the aisle with the chips to prevent myself from stopping and filling up my cart exclusively with Doritos. The grocer is my pusher and he knows just what I like. “2 FOR 1” the signs scream at me in their bright colors and big wording, and I begin to count the change in my quivering palms, praying that I have enough to afford those two this week. I start to shake and sweat at just the mere mention of these delicious morsels of grease and cheesy goodness. My friends have had to stage Interventions when I have brought home bags of Doritos and hide them from me or throw them away, as I sit whimpering in a corner. Later, I tear the house apart trying to find where they hid my stash and fly into a rage when I can’t find that bag I know I just purchased. And if I ever do cave in and rip open a giant family-sized bag, I literally cannot stop myself from shoving the entire contents down my throat, after which I feel the most intense elation followed by a sickness so profound that I am unable to move or function.

My Personal Crack Cocaine

It’s a damn good thing I have no money or who knows what kind of legal troubles I’d be in right now. Instead, I have trouble zipping up my pants on any given day but…I’ll take it over some terrible drug addiction. One thought that I had when I read this was “Can one addiction be replaced with another?” For example, could milkshakes be used in rehab for cocaine addicts to wean them off cocaine? Or is replacing one addiction for another just a horrible idea?

It’s interesting how food addiction is such a commonly accepted part of our society (everyone’s got to eat, right? But when it spirals out of control…) that it takes a study like this to make it legitimate. I’ve posted about the issue of food addiction before but I was really excited to see that the researcher in charge of the study also commented on it:

[The researcher] hopes this will lead to acceptance that food addiction is a disease and lead to more effective ways for people to lose weight.

“We beat ourselves up in this society: ‘This is my fault,'” Gearhardt said. “When we finally decided to see alcohol having the potential to cause an addictive process, we stopped blaming people and started helping people.”
Exactly. Hopefully now our society will take this issue seriously and we can begin to look for solutions instead of constantly blaming and shaming people affected by this. And this is why I still debate that giant food corporations should have to pay serious taxes on the toxic waste they produce before they can put it out on the shelves for the average consumer to purchase and…well, consume. It’s like legalized drugs! And this is an issue that needs to be dealt with, for the good of all those affected by food addiction and for the health of our society as a whole.

(Images courtesy of USAToday and MSGExposed…fascinating site)

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. nat permalink
    September 28, 2011 5:47 pm

    I just learned about this in my human physiology class yesterday! Not about the Doritoes bit, but the part about how eating triggers the same dopamine reward pathway for certain people as other drugs do for drug addicts. Very timely! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Fedora permalink
    September 30, 2011 12:44 am

    I am not surprised by this at all- in TV programs I have seen that interviewed severely obese people they frequently compared it to a drug addiction. They knew it was killing them and couldnt stop. In severely obese people, I think this problem is very clear. They are not simply overindulging, they literally cant stop. TLC has shown us that people can become addicted to anything.
    I dont think junk food companies should be taxed for it though but I also dont think most drugs should be illegal. We can all make choices, and instead of spending money trying to stop the drugs/food companies, spend money trying to help people that cant control their addictions.

  3. October 31, 2012 8:40 pm

    even though it’s about a serious/appalling subject, this article made me laugh. I loved it!

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