If you have ever wondered why people just can’t stop eating chips, sweets and fatty meats, even when they know they should give it a rest, a recent study has the answer.
Junk food is more addictive than heroin.
Researchers from the Scripps Research Institute set up three groups of rats, one eating a healthy diet, one with the healthy diet and a limited access to junk, and one group with unlimited cheesecake, sponge cake, and greasy meat. This little rodent party went 24/7, with the lively speedball of sugar and fat fueling all kinds of binges.
Unsurprisingly, the third group quickly became obese, while the other two stayed stable.
To see just how this played into addictive behavior, the researchers also put implants in the pleasure centers of all the rats brains, and only activated these ” fun” zones when the rats ran on their little wheel.
Now you might think, the junk eating subjects could double their pleasure by both bingeing and running. But that didn’t happen. The rats that were eating junk quickly became desensitized to pleasure, and even electrical stimulation of the pleasure centers of the brain did not work for them. The fat little rats laid about like so many cage-potatoes, soothing their junkie cravings with more culinary smack.
When the researchers started giving them painful shocks every time they ate the junk, they just kept eating it. Kind of like your acquaintance whose doctor insists he should get his triglycerides down, who heads straight to the drive thru for a fix.
Then when all junk food was taken away from group three, and healthy food put in its place, they didn’t eat for two weeks. Poor junk food junkies! Their brain chemistry had been altered in the exact same way that coke and heroin addicts’ brains change. Withdrawal from their drugs left them unable to feel pleasure, as well as lacking any appetite.
These rats suffered so that we can learn-if we can’t keep the sweets and fats to a minimum, like group number two, we have to go cold turkey. Most people can eat a decent diet and occasionally indulge, and that is fine. Don’t set your kids or yourself up for a lifetime of struggle with food, keep it in balance. We see it all too often in the childhood obesity epidemic- kids weaned on fast food turn out about like the rats in group 3, but nobody takes them to a 28 day program to get over it.
Food is strong medicine, and that works both ways.
Now If I could just get my gym to buy those treadmills that trigger the pleasure centers of the brain, I’d be buff for life.