Monday, April 5, 2010

Food as cocaine

This study recently came out finding that the development of obesity in rats (by eating a diet of high sugar and fat) led to the same changes in the brain as in cocaine or heroin addiction.

Obese rats (but not lean rats) developed compulsive-like feeding behavior and the down-regulation of dopamine receptors. The rats were unconcerned about any negative consequences from their food consumption… even painful stimuli (electric shocks to their feet) did not stop them from eating!

Researcher Paul Kenney said, "People know intuitively that there's more to [overeating] than just will power… there's a system in the brain that's been turned on or overactivated, and that's driving it at some subconscious level."

Another scientist, Dr. Gene-Jack Wang, describes the food we eat as similar to cocaine: "We make our food very similar to cocaine now. We purify our food. Our ancestors ate whole grains, but we're eating white bread. American Indians ate corn; we eat corn syrup."


  1. and so the reason I am powerless
    go into a trance when I eat:
    -lamb chops
    -roquefort cheese
    -spoonfuls of sugar

  2. This is a really hard issue. As many pundits have already commented, it is impossible to go cold-turkey on food. Its difficult--but after detox, not incompatibile with life--to abstain from alcohol, cocaine etc. So although understanding the source of the problem can make us more empathetic (and help us predict problems?) I don't think that it will point us towards any solutions.

    Although we know that exposure and genetics play a large role in alcoholism, culture is also important. This article ( from Malcolm Gladwell really caught my attention. There are a lot of ways in our culture that we promote and support an addiction to food. That's what we need to change.

  3. Mary Poppins was a pusher

    "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in a most delightful way"