What does an an obese person gorging on a bag of nacho cheese-flavored corn chips have in common with a cokehead railing lines off a glass table? According to recent studies, a lot more than we might anticipate.
A number of scientific studies conducted within the past year have found that junk food addiction has effects on the brain that are strikingly similar to cocaine addiction.
Bloomberg Businessweek reports on an influx of recent data that pinpoints junk food addiction as potentially being as dangerous as drug addiction. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrogenated oils, refined salt, and various other chemical preservatives found in processed junk food do the same thing to a person’s brain as cocaine. Scary stuff!
A 2010 study conducted by scientists at Scripps Research Institute (SRI) in Florida found that rats given free access to Hormel Foods Corp. bacon, Sara Lee Corp. pound cake, The Cheesecake Factory Inc. cheesecake, and Pillsbury Co. Creamy Supreme cake frosting experienced significant changes in brain activity and function.
These changes in the brain mirrored those of the alterations inflicted upon the brains of drug addicts. We’re hoping this doesn’t lead to imbecile parents drafting up a program to teach kids how to say no to cookies and chips in school. F.A.R.E. (Food Abuse Resistance Education) What a world. I love it!
Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas in Austin (UT) and the Oregon Research Institute, found that prolonged consumption of junk foods results in reduced activity in the striatum, a section of the forebrain that registers reward. In other words, just like with illicit drugs, those addicted to junk food require ever-increasing amounts of it to get the same “high.”
I can hear it now “Broooo, I pounded like 6 cheeseburgers and I got like SUPER mellow and full, man! It was gnarrrlyyy!!” I wonder what the new labels for food addicts are going to be? Burger head? Or, perhaps, a “Chippy”? Or, maybe just the industry standard “Junky”. This word seems applicable in this scenario as well.
“The data is so overwhelming the field has to accept it,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) concerning the findings. “We are finding tremendous overlap between drugs in the brain and food in the brain.”
In a correlative study, researchers identified a similarity in dopamine production levels between drug addicts and junk food addicts. Addiction to either one causes the brain’s dopamine receptors to significantly down-regulate and lose their responsiveness. As a result, addicts require ever-increasing amounts of the addictive substance to receive the same level of satisfaction. In other words, they are constantly chasing a high, and their needs can only be satiated by indulging further. Yep, sounds like coke to me.
Since processed foods are loaded with synthetic chemical additives, they are technically drugs themselves. It’s no wonder that millions of people around the world are addicted to junk food. Readers, beware. Next time you’re trying to enjoy a bag of Lays, you might just get assaulted by a savage “Chippy”.
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