Is junk food as addicting as drugs

It turns out that there is tremendous overlap in how drugs and food work on the brain.

Drugs cause the brain to release dopamine - the so-called happiness hormone. In a comparative study, the scientists discovered a similarity between dopamine production in drug addicts and in people who are addicted to fast food. Addiction to drugs basically causes the receptors in the brain that respond to dopamine and make the body feel happy to lose their sensitivity. It follows that addicts need ever higher doses of the addictive substance to achieve the same level of satisfaction. Exactly the same mechanisms operate in the brain of a person addicted to fast food.

Addiction to chemical additives

Since processed foods are full of synthetic chemical additives, they can generally be viewed as drugs in a broader sense. So it's no wonder that millions of people around the world are addicted to these products.

Fast food addiction and obesity

The described addiction to fast food is apparently also connected with the nowadays widespread obesity. The researchers were able to show that obese people are more likely to have less sensitive dopamine receptors than people of normal weight. Obese people also have to eat more to satisfy their addiction to fast food. These mechanisms in the brain can end up in a vicious cycle that can cause serious health problems.

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  • Johnson PM, Kenny PJ. "Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats." Nat Neurosci. 2010 May; 13 (5): 635-41. (Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in overweight rats.)
  • Kenny PJ. "Common cellular and molecular mechanisms in obesity and drug addiction." Nat Rev Neurosci. 2011 Oct 20; 12 (11): 638-51. doi: 10.1038 / nrn3105. (Common Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms in Obesity and Drug Addiction.)
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  • Stice E, et al., "Reward circuitry responsivity to food predicts future increases in body mass: moderating effects of DRD2 and DRD4." Neuroimage. 2010 May 1; 50 (4): 1618-25. (Reward sensitivity to food predicts future body weight increases: moderating effects of DRD2 and DRD4.)
  • Stice E, et al., "Youth at risk for obesity show greater activation of striatal and somatosensory regions to food." J Neurosci. 2011 Mar 23; 31 (12): 4360-6. (Adolescents at risk of obesity show greater activation of the striatal and somatosensory regions on food.)
  • Mail Online "Are cupcakes as addictive as cocaine? How high-sugar processed food can have the same effect on the brain as drugs" By Tamara Abraham Last updated at 9:10 PM on November 2nd 2011 (Are cupcakes as addictive as cocaine? How processed foods high sugar levels can have the same effect on the brain as drugs.)

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