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  • Rita Date

Are You Addicted to Food?

Are you addicted to food?  Can be food be like drugs? I wonder about this when I need my sugar fix and cannot just take the intended one bite and end up finishing all of last night’s gajar ka halwa. The unfortunate part of this addiction is that we cannot go “cold turkey” and stay away from food — we need it to live.

With obesity reaching epidemic proportions in the country, food addiction and how it happens should be closely examined. In the US, a presentation at the Food and Nutrition Conference addressed this topic. Convincing evidence that  addiction can occur was presented.

Dr.Gene-Jack Wang, MD, one of the speakers, uses MRI and PET scans of the brain to investigate similarities between the brains of drug addicts and the brains of morbidly obese people.  His research showed that obese people do have addict-like brain chemistry in reward centers, which could drive excessive eating of highly palatable food: sweets, junk food, salty snacks, desserts, etc.  Binge eating these items would make obesity more likely because of the excessive calorie intake, making it very hard for the person to control weight.

A study from Yale, reported last year, showed that female subjects who described themselves as food addicts needed had increased brain activity in reward centers when they saw photos of palatable food.  But when they actually tasted a the foods, they did not get satisfied and had to eat more of the food at a point of bingeing — as opposed to those who were not considered food addicts.

It was hard for the addict-type subjects to stop eating. They weren’t getting enough of that “reward” reaction, so they kept on eating, trying to get some satisfaction.  It’s easy to see how a person in that situation could keep on eating highly desirable foods, well beyond feeling full or getting enough calories.

Basically obese binge eaters get little reward from eating, leading them to keep right on eating without stopping. The key is identify yourself as as an addict and then exercise self control.

A few tips: Don’t buy tempting junk food.  Don’t keep it in the house or your desk or your car.  Don’t have “just one bite” if you know you really can’t.  Protect yourself by eating a balanced diet, full of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and fresh fruit.  Never stay hungry,  eat small snacks frequently. Drink lots of water and be physically active.

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