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.



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Comments (8) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Cindy Marsch - November 2, 2009 2:37 PM

I've definitely found it true for myself. I've been eating nutritarian for a bit over three weeks (and eight pounds down!), and I'm perfectly content and at ease in the presence of lots of candy and goodies lately in my home. It feels like my own private little miracle. :-)

See my blog (link above) for my own journey . . .

Michael - November 2, 2009 4:11 PM

Breaking the addiction to junk/fast food was extemely difficult. I never thought of that food as addicitng until I went through withdrawal. Eating greens and other nutrient-dense food has virtually eliminated all desire for that garbage.

Julieanna Hever, M.S., R.D. - November 3, 2009 9:52 AM

This theory is so profound and cutting-edge. Though it seems so obvious and simple, its implications are vast and complex. People have completely lost their ability to recognize true hunger and this is what causes the downward spiral to ill health. This message is imperative and life-changing.

Laurie - November 3, 2009 6:52 PM

Oh, man, that photo is revolting! LOL

But, yup, I totally agree with Julieanna Hever, life-changing. As in helping me lose 105 lbs. in a year and get my life and looks back!

aunt cia - November 4, 2009 7:11 AM

I am on a slow but steadily upward road to winning the battle against food addiction. I am not able to say that it is totally won yet because I still reach for the junk sometimes, but I am definitely much much better equipped since reading Dr F's writings and practicing the things I'm learning. I am so happy to be on this road to good health. It's a sad way to live, the way of food addiction, it truly is. Living the healthy way will hopefully inspire others to release their addictions, too. Thank you, Dr F!

Matt Stone - November 8, 2009 12:19 PM

Seth Roberts research on flavor-calorie associations and pleasure centers is very fascinating. It's worth checking out for those who want to pursue this phenomenon.

And no one doesn't have to choose between being a food addict or a nutritarian. I am neither.

Tiltmom - November 9, 2009 7:49 AM

Actually, I'm a little disheartened to see that photo. In David Kessler's book, _The End of Overeating_ he talks about the various mechanisms for triggering cravings. One obvious one is a photo of a tempting food -- it puts a thought in your head that was not previously there, and your mind loops back to it subconsciously, often until the craving is filled.

The photo above does nothing for me, but I imagine it might stimulate the appetites of people not as far down the nutritarian path as I am. I'd respectfully suggest that this blog should refrain from using any photos of unhealthy food.

Heather - November 13, 2009 11:49 PM

I want a BLT and a piece of carrot cake now. I am so addicted to unhealthy food. Ecspecially fast food like McDonalds. I know its bad for me and will make me sluggish, but after a hard days work all I can think about is a Big Mac and large fry.I am trying to quit, but sometimes it seems so hard.

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