HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS CAUSE FOOD ADDICTION SIMILAR TO HARD DRUGS, STUDY SHOW BY: DANIEL BARKER
Anyone who read Andrew Weil's groundbreaking 1970s-era book, The Natural Mind, is already familiar with the correlation between highly processed foods and addictive drugs.
Weil observed way back then that the refinement of natural sugars into pure white crystals, for example, can trigger addictive behavior patterns in humans that are similar to those created by the refinement of coca leaf into pure cocaine. He suggested that the over-processing and ingesting of many foods and other substances will produce similar results.
A recent study conducted by a group of University of Michigan researchers reinforces this theory about food addictions. The report, which was published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, concludes that "cheese really is crack", as the Los Angeles Times put it:
Pizza, unsurprisingly, came out on top of the most addictive food list. Besides being a basic food group for kids, college students and adults, there's a scientific reason we all love pizza, and it has to do with the cheese.
The study found certain foods are addictive because of the way they are processed. The more processed and fatty the food, the more it was associated with addictive eating behaviors.
Even if you have never heard of Weil or this new study, you are likely already familiar with the addictive properties of food, especially gooey, fat, delicious cheese such as that found on top of pizzas, right? If not, perhaps you're a soda pop junkie instead? We already know that the worst foods are the most addictive ones. It doesn't take a fancy scientific study to tell us that.
Nevertheless, the findings are interesting. At least we now have somewhat of an excuse for obsessively stuffing our faces with Oreos, camembert or whatever our fix happens to be.
The conclusion of the report states:
The current study provides preliminary evidence that not all foods are equally implicated in addictive-like eating behavior, and highly processed foods, which may share characteristics with drugs of abuse (e.g. high dose, rapid rate of absorption) appear to be particularly associated with 'food addiction.'
In other words, the highly processed foods work on our bodies in similar ways that addictive hard drugs do: they are absorbed into our bloodstreams quickly and in high doses, but do they actually give us a "rush" or a "high" similar to hard drugs?
How is cheese like heroin?
Dr. Neal Barnard is the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and has written a book titled Breaking the Food Seduction in which he explores the mechanics of food addiction.
Barnard explains the addictive effect of the "casomorphins" that are produced in the body and released in the brain upon digestion of cheese:
Casomorphins attach to the brain's opiate receptors to cause a calming effect in much the same way heroin and morphine do. In fact, since cheese is processed to express out all the liquid, it's an incredibly concentrated source of casomorphins - you might call it dairy crack.
It's official: cheese is the new heroin. Does that mean we should all go cold turkey and kick the queso habit altogether?
In the case of cheese, my opinion is that you don't need to eliminate it completely from your diet (except, of course, those pasteurized processed imitation cheese substitutes). Sure, cheese can be addictive and fattening, but it's not necessarily unhealthy if enjoyed in moderation. As for refined sugar, you should avoid it as much as possible.
You should avoid processed foods in general and choose fresh organic fruits, vegetables, and sustainable meat and dairy products whenever possible.
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