It’s been much discussed that we can become addicted to food in general and sugar in particular. But what exactly is the biochemical basis of being addicted to sugar, and binging on sugar? Why do we engage in these behaviors and find ourselves unable to stop? Researcher Nicole Avena, Ph.D., of the University of Florida College of Medicine, has conducted studies to find out if these behaviors can be identified in rats and how exactly the biochemistry is affected.
In the study which she discusses in the video above, she describes how the rats were put on a feeding schedule designed to induce them to binge on sugar. In so doing they reveals behaviors as well as changes in the biochemistry of the brain resembling an addiction, much as that we might associate with drugs. She notes there are emotional factors in eating — we eat when we are stressed or bored or lonely. For some these behaviors may escalate from overeating to binge eating disorder.
The presentation is part of the Food & Addiction: Environmental, Psychological and Biological Perspectives series at UCSF and is available for free download at YouTube.
I found it quite fascinated. We may often hear of food addiction and hear of studies referenced, but this is a chance to hear from the researcher herself in detail on the physiology of sugar addiction.
Now that food is everywhere and has become more and more a part of our socializing — and it seems everywhere we go, there is food or snacks or other opportunities to eat — we are constantly in situations where we might overeat and engage what Dr. David Kessler, author of The End of Overeating, has termed conditioned hyper eating. Understanding the biochemistry at the very least helps us understand just what we are up against. Just as the smoker swears off cigarettes for good or the alcoholic does not take an occasional drink, a strong case can be made for avoiding completely the sugary foods that may trigger binges and sabotage our diet plans.
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