Monday, March 29, 2010

File This Under: Jeez, Really?

Guess what? Rats who are given unlimited access to popular junk food -- ding dongs, chips, etc -- quickly develop a preference for ONLY those foods and can't stop eating them, not even in the presence of physical danger!

This has scientists thinking now that maybe this type of junk food is as addictive to humans as heroin and cocaine. Ohhhhh -- imagine that!

Guess what else science discovered? The rats become obese really fast when they pig out on junk food.

Gosh, I wonder how long it took them to figure that out? I wonder why "science" can't be bothered to listen to the millions of people struggling with obesity who report over and over and over again addiction-like feelings around certain types of food?

Who hasn't looked into the bottom of a Dorito bag at one point in their life, fingers and lips smeared with fluorescent orange cheesiness, and despairingly asked, "Why can't I stop eating these?"

This does NOT mean that I think people are hopeless food addicts. There is no "magic cure" for food compulsion, but behavioral and habit changes go a long way toward rewiring, I think.

However I find it really frustrating that people who struggle with weight are stigmatized as lazy, irresponsible, weak-willed and so on when clearly there's a lot more complexity to the whole issue.

But hey, why listen to the fatties? Let's just go to the rats. (Excuse my extra snarkiness today -- more rain in NYC, think it's messing with my head. Update soon on MIL situation, hope to be able to report some good news.)

Junk food addiction may be clue to obesity: study
JoAnne Allen
Sun Mar 28, 2010 7:38pm EDT
Related News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bingeing on high-calorie foods may be as addictive as cocaine or nicotine, and could cause compulsive eating and obesity, according to a study published on Sunday.

The findings in a study of animals cannot be directly applied to human obesity, but may help in understanding the condition and in developing therapies to treat it, researchers wrote in the journal "Nature Neuroscience."

The study, involving rats, found that overconsumption of high-calorie food can trigger addiction-like responses in the brain and that high-calorie food can turn rats into compulsive eaters in a laboratory setting, the article said.

The scientists also found decreased levels of a specific dopamine receptor -- a brain chemical that allows a feeling of reward -- in overweight rats, as has been reported in humans addicted to drugs, the article said.

"Obesity may be a form of compulsive eating. Other treatments in development for other forms of compulsion, for example drug addiction, may be very useful for the treatment of obesity," researcher Paul Kenny of The Scripps Research Institute in Florida said in a telephone interview.

Obesity-related diseases cost the United States an estimated $150 billion each year, according to U.S. federal agencies. An estimated two-thirds of American adults and one-third of children are obese or overweight.

For the study, Kenny and colleagues headed to the grocery store.

"We basically bought all of the stuff that people really like -- Ding-Dongs, cheesecake, bacon, sausage, the stuff that you enjoy, but you really shouldn't eat too often," he said.

They also bought healthy foods and devised a diet plan for three groups of rats.

One group ate a balanced healthy diet. Another group received healthy food, but had access to high-calorie food for one hour a day. Rats in the third group were fed healthy meals and given unlimited access to high-calorie foods.

The rats in the third group developed a preference for the high-calorie food, munched on it all day and quickly became obese, Kenny said.

The rats in the experiment had also been trained to expect a minor shock when exposed to a light. But when the rats that had unlimited access to high-calorie food were shown the light, they did not respond to the potential danger, Kenny said. Instead, they continued to eat their snacks.

"What we're seeing in our animals is very similar to what you'd see in humans who overindulge," he said. "It seemed that it was okay, from what we could tell, to enjoy snack foods, but if you repeatedly overindulge, that's where the problem comes in."


  1. You are singing my tune today, great post! Fluorescent orange cheesiness. Rain. Anger!

    I think I ate a pound of bread pudding at a dinner yesterday, so I'm also angry at myself. Steel cut oats and Shred, here I come...

  2. Wow. Shocking news huh? ;) jk, this is interesting! I'm sure glad people are starting to realize how strong a hold junk food can have on people. I'm also hoping that this doesn't give people an excuse for their obesity, you know? Information like this is powerful (with its ability to both educate and delude...)

  3. I think we can all agree that if we moved forward with medical treatments and interventions that were developed based on hearsay and folk wisdom, there'd be a problem. It's a step in the right direction that a controlled experiment appears to have confirmed this common experience with junk food. Just gotta speak up as someone who is a research scientist in a medical school! ;)

  4. I am a rat. Who knew?

    Peridot x

    PS Keep your nasty Doritos - not nearly enough SUGAR.
    PPS No idea what a Ding Dong is. Over here it's a shouty argument. Or - if you're Lesley Phillips - an expression of sexual interest. You can't buy either of those easily this side of the Atlantic. Just as well....

  5. I am shocked I tell you. This study fits right in with that one that says the more water you drink, the more you have to go to the bathroom.