Fresh Thoughts: An Alternate Perspective

By Sara Scheler

November 13, 2013

Thank you to Dr. Robert Calin-Jageman for providing an alternative perspective on the Oreo study I summarized for the last issue.

Dr. Jageman brought to my attention several important facts most notably that the study was not peer-reviewed and the researchers may have presented a biased and exaggerated viewpoint of the study’s results. In short, it was not a good representation of the research available on this topic.

However, credible research has been conducted that shows the addictive properties of junk food.

In a peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Dr. Jeffrey Fortuna said that the brains of some individuals release high levels of endorphins and dopamine that cause intense pleasure when they consume “highly palatable foods.” This is very similar to the endorphin release that occurs in the brains of certain individuals who are sensitive to alcohol and drugs.

According to Fortuna, other scientists also suggest that eating high-fat, high-sugar foods creates a sense of neural euphoria, which makes it difficult to stop.

Another study, Fortuna noted, found that rats will binge on sugar water, especially if they are deprived from food. Furthermore, rats were found to consume more sugar in response to a higher sugar concentration. In other words, the more sugar in an item, the more they ate.

The results from these studies and many others like them are frightening. Not only does sugar please our palates, it releases chemicals in our brains that tell us to keep eating. Consistent consumption of these “highly palatable foods” (high-fat, high-sugar and/or high-salt) causes cravings that can be difficult to ignore.

So, what does this mean for us? It means that we should be conscious of how much of these foods we consume and try not to give in to our cravings. However, we should also recognize that our bodies naturally crave sweet, salty and fatty foods. Practice portion control and opt for healthier options to satisfy these cravings. Popcorn, peanut butter and dark chocolate are a few of my favorites. As always, set aside a reasonable amount and put the rest away so you are not tempted to eat the whole bag!

Dr. Jageman’s article is very interesting and a good read; I am happy to send anyone the link if interested.