Hooked on Food
Are you captive of a food addiction?
If the number on your bathroom scale seems to be rising faster than the
national debt, and if you repeatedly find yourself piling food onto your
oversized plate in an almost reckless manner at all-you-can-eat buffet lines,
could you be captive of a "food addiction"?
Most people know that the physically addictive properties of caffeine can
make giving up your first (and second and third) cup of coffee in the morning a
harrowing way to start the day. But some doctors believe that people are also
driven to eat foods like beef and cheese with just as much compulsion, and the
reason may be an unrecognized food addiction.
Neal Barnard, MD, for example, says he believes that cheese, meat,
chocolate, and sugar are addictive foods in the diets of millions of Americans.
Barnard, the author of Breaking the Food Seduction and president of the
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, says that these foods contain
chemical compounds that stimulate the brain's secretion of opiate-like,
"feel-good" chemicals like dopamine, which drive our cravings for
Alan Goldhamer, DC, co-author of The Pleasure Trap and director of
TrueNorth Health Center in Rohnert Park, Calif., agrees. "A large
percentage of the population is vulnerable to the effects of this
hyperstimulation [from foods that trigger dopamine production], and they get
caught up in an addictive cycle," he says. But unlike the addiction to
drugs, which is widely acknowledged, this problem remains largely unrecognized,
according to proponents of the food addiction theory.
Food Addiction: Where's the Beef?
Not long ago, when ads for a potato-chip manufacturer were teasing consumers
with the challenge, "Betcha can't eat just one!", they may have really
Food manufacturers have done an exquisite job of recognizing and tapping
into our cravings, using persuasive ads and alluring packaging to keep their
products tumbling into our shopping carts. "There are so many processed
foods that are not only calorically dense, but they also stimulate dopamine
production that makes us feel good," says Goldhamer.
On the other hand, many nutritional experts believe that there are more
important risks associated with processed foods that have nothing to do with
addictions. "The problem with processed food is that you digest it so
quickly that it's out of your stomach in no time and you still feel
hungry," says Michael Roizen, MD, author of Cooking the RealAge Way.
"If you take the fiber out of food, you get a lot of empty