Are Fatty Foods Addictive?

Are Fatty Foods Addictive?
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Those eating calorie-dense diets may have a reduced capacity to enjoy all of life’s pleasures by deadening dopamine pathways in the brain.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The food industry, like the tobacco companies and other drug lords, have been able to come up with products that tap into that same dopamine reward system. Why a picture of a cheeseburger, rather than sugary soda pop? Well, now we know fat may have similar effects on the brain, as well. You feed some people some yogurt packed with butterfat, and within thirty minutes, you can start to see the same changes in brain activity you get when you drink sugar water.

People who regularly eat ice cream—sugar and fat—have a deadened dopamine response in their brains to drinking a milkshake. It’s like when drug abusers have to use more and more to get the same high. “[F]requent [ice cream] consumption…is related to a reduction in reward-region responsivity in humans”—they’re talking about the pleasure center—”paralleling the tolerance observed in drug addiction.” Once we’ve so dulled our dopamine response, we may subsequently overeat “in an effort to achieve the degree of satisfaction experienced previously, which contributes to unhealthy weight gain.”

What do fatty, sugary foods have in common? They are “energy-dense foods.” It may be less the number of calories than their concentration. Consumption of a calorie-dense diet compared to the same number calories in a calorie-dilute diet leads to that numbing of the dopamine response. It’s like the difference between cocaine and crack. Same stuff chemically, but by smoking crack cocaine, we can deliver a higher dose quicker to our brain.

As an aside, I found it interesting that the control drink in these milkshake studies wasn’t just water. They can’t use water, because our brain can actually taste water on the tongue; I didn’t know that. So, they had to use artificial saliva; they made people drink a solution designed to mimic the natural taste of saliva—ew!

Anyway, with this new understanding of the “neural correlates of food addiction,” there’ve been calls to include obesity as an official mental disorder. After all, “[b]oth obesity and addiction share the inability to restrain behavior in spite of an awareness of detrimental health…consequences.” That’s one of the defining criteria of substance abuse. You keep putting crap in your body, despite the knowledge that you have a problem that is likely caused by the crap—yet, you can’t stop.

Redefining obesity as an addiction—as a psychiatric disease—would be a boon to drug companies that are already working on a whole bunch of drugs to muck with our brain chemistry. For example, you give people an opiate blocker, like they do for people with heroin overdoses to block the effects of the drug, and people eat significantly less cheese. It just doesn’t do as much for them any more, when their opiate receptors are blocked.

Rather than taking drugs, though, we can prevent the deadening of our pleasure center in the first place by sticking to foods that are naturally calorically dilute—like whole plant foods. This can help bring back our dopamine sensitivity, such that we can again derive the same pleasure from the simplest of foods.

And, this is not just for people who are obese. Yes, when we regularly eat calorie-dense animal and junk foods, like ice cream, we can blunt our pleasure center, and overeat to compensate. But, when our brain downregulates dopamine receptors to deal with all these jolts of fat and sugar, we may experience less enjoyment from other activities as well.

That’s why cocaine addicts may have “an impaired neurological capacity to enjoy” sex; why smokers also have an impaired ability to respond to positive stimuli. Since these all involve the same dopamine pathways, what we put into our body—what we eat—can affect how we experience all of life’s pleasures.

So, to live life to the fullest, what’s the solution? Well, “[t]he food industry,” according to some addiction specialists, “should be given incentives to develop low calorie foods that are more attractive, palatable, and affordable so that people can adhere to diet programs for a long time.”

No need! Mother Nature beat them all to it.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to C. E. Kent, Mirandala, colros, SeeMidTn.com (aka Brent), L.Richarz, and punctuated via flickr; and Evan-Amos and Paolo Neo via Wikimedia

 

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The food industry, like the tobacco companies and other drug lords, have been able to come up with products that tap into that same dopamine reward system. Why a picture of a cheeseburger, rather than sugary soda pop? Well, now we know fat may have similar effects on the brain, as well. You feed some people some yogurt packed with butterfat, and within thirty minutes, you can start to see the same changes in brain activity you get when you drink sugar water.

People who regularly eat ice cream—sugar and fat—have a deadened dopamine response in their brains to drinking a milkshake. It’s like when drug abusers have to use more and more to get the same high. “[F]requent [ice cream] consumption…is related to a reduction in reward-region responsivity in humans”—they’re talking about the pleasure center—”paralleling the tolerance observed in drug addiction.” Once we’ve so dulled our dopamine response, we may subsequently overeat “in an effort to achieve the degree of satisfaction experienced previously, which contributes to unhealthy weight gain.”

What do fatty, sugary foods have in common? They are “energy-dense foods.” It may be less the number of calories than their concentration. Consumption of a calorie-dense diet compared to the same number calories in a calorie-dilute diet leads to that numbing of the dopamine response. It’s like the difference between cocaine and crack. Same stuff chemically, but by smoking crack cocaine, we can deliver a higher dose quicker to our brain.

As an aside, I found it interesting that the control drink in these milkshake studies wasn’t just water. They can’t use water, because our brain can actually taste water on the tongue; I didn’t know that. So, they had to use artificial saliva; they made people drink a solution designed to mimic the natural taste of saliva—ew!

Anyway, with this new understanding of the “neural correlates of food addiction,” there’ve been calls to include obesity as an official mental disorder. After all, “[b]oth obesity and addiction share the inability to restrain behavior in spite of an awareness of detrimental health…consequences.” That’s one of the defining criteria of substance abuse. You keep putting crap in your body, despite the knowledge that you have a problem that is likely caused by the crap—yet, you can’t stop.

Redefining obesity as an addiction—as a psychiatric disease—would be a boon to drug companies that are already working on a whole bunch of drugs to muck with our brain chemistry. For example, you give people an opiate blocker, like they do for people with heroin overdoses to block the effects of the drug, and people eat significantly less cheese. It just doesn’t do as much for them any more, when their opiate receptors are blocked.

Rather than taking drugs, though, we can prevent the deadening of our pleasure center in the first place by sticking to foods that are naturally calorically dilute—like whole plant foods. This can help bring back our dopamine sensitivity, such that we can again derive the same pleasure from the simplest of foods.

And, this is not just for people who are obese. Yes, when we regularly eat calorie-dense animal and junk foods, like ice cream, we can blunt our pleasure center, and overeat to compensate. But, when our brain downregulates dopamine receptors to deal with all these jolts of fat and sugar, we may experience less enjoyment from other activities as well.

That’s why cocaine addicts may have “an impaired neurological capacity to enjoy” sex; why smokers also have an impaired ability to respond to positive stimuli. Since these all involve the same dopamine pathways, what we put into our body—what we eat—can affect how we experience all of life’s pleasures.

So, to live life to the fullest, what’s the solution? Well, “[t]he food industry,” according to some addiction specialists, “should be given incentives to develop low calorie foods that are more attractive, palatable, and affordable so that people can adhere to diet programs for a long time.”

No need! Mother Nature beat them all to it.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to C. E. Kent, Mirandala, colros, SeeMidTn.com (aka Brent), L.Richarz, and punctuated via flickr; and Evan-Amos and Paolo Neo via Wikimedia

 

Doctor's Note

What about that sugary soda pop? See Are Sugary Foods Addictive?

So, how do we break ourselves out of the Pleasure Trap? By starting to eat healthy, we can actually change how things taste; see Changing our Taste Buds. And, healthy means whole plant foods— which tend to be naturally dilute, given their water (see The Ice Diet) and fiber content. Not only is fiber calorie-free, but one might also think of it as having “negative” calories—given the fermentation of fiber in our bowel into anti-obesity compounds (see Fawning over Flora), as well as anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer compounds (see Boosting Good Bacteria in the Colon without Probiotics). For this reason, those eating plant-based diets eat hundreds of fewer calories—without even trying. See Nutrient-Dense Approach to Weight Management.

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86 responses to “Are Fatty Foods Addictive?

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  1. What about binging/overindulging on dates and bananas? Or other kinds of fruits? Could this behavior be deadening the dopamine pathways? Borderline food (sugar) addiction? I see so many fruitarians online claiming to eat 15 bananas a day and multiple pounds of grapes, melons…. It all sounds tasty and indulgent but could it be a problem?

    It seems like a sensible amount of fruit is OK and nutritious, but a daily indulgence?

    1. I have had discussions with Jeff Novick RD on this issue. I think the jury is still out on the “addiction” potential of fruits. Fruits contain glucose, fructose and sucrose( i.e. one molecule each of glucose and fructose). I think it is sensible to limit intake to 4 servings of fruit a day. The concern I have is the amount of fructose. I’m still looking for pharmacokinetic data on fructose metabolism by the liver. It clearly contributes to inflammation in the liver and production of fats and triglycerides. It depends on the individual as we find sometimes we have to limit fruits. It is best to work with a knowledgeable physician to help work out what is best for you.

      1. Beyond the liver effects, there is also the issue of contributing to insulin resistance syndrome by consuming very large amounts of high-glycemic index fruits. Fruit is necessary because it contains many healthy antioxidants, but a large amount packs a mean sugar load (http://www.sugarstacks.com/fruits.htm). Some fruits in particular tend to be lower in fiber and higher in sugar. The new 2013 European guidelines for the treatment of hypertension recommend that obese people cut back on their fruit intake.

          1. I stick to whole grains in moderate amounts. I used to avoid them entirely when I, mistakenly, ate an Eco-Atkins diet. I now see them as a valuable source of B vitamins, fiber and protein, as well as other constituents. I avoid highly processed grains and try to limit my carbs overall. If I didn’t eat grains, I would probably have to resume a B complex, which I’d rather not have to consume, because I feel it’s always preferable to get one’s nutrition from food sources than from pills, in part because the milieu of food is so different from the milieu of high-dose isolated synthetic micronutrients.

        1. Yes, I am diabetic and I have to steer clear of bananas. Man those things pack a wallop. If I eat one my sugar jumps through the roof and then plummets to dangerous levels just as quickly. However, If I mix a moderate amount in with my smoothies or baked goods for example, this doesnt happen, but eating those high sugar fruits straight seems to really effect me big time.

        2. Fruits don’t cause insulin resistance. It’s bad fat foods and lack of good healthy nuts seeds olives avocados coconuts consumption. It’s also caused by refined carbohydrate processed foods with GMO fructose corn sweetener that causes #InsulinResistance.

      2. And also the individual’s microbiota/enterotype I would guess, since some gut bugs may mediate fructose metabolism especially if regularly accompanied by fiber, resistant starches and other ‘prebiotics.’ Would be interesting to compare vegans vs. low-carbers to see if there is an effect like that with choline/carnitine=>TMAO in regular meat eaters but not in the vegans who volunteered to eat their first steak in years for the study.

      3. 4 servings seems very low. I think kids need much more then that, otherwise they are going to crave the junk desserts. There are studies that show a bone building effect from much higher then 4 servings of fruit in children.

      4. Speaking only from personal experience, I’m quite sure that on my strict vegan diet the dates and nuts have become my emotional foods, though nuts always were… I go to these TOO much. It’s like an addiction but one I can easily resolve. But it’s hard because I don’t want to remove those foods from my home because I know how healthy they are. And if they’re gone, will I merely replace them with… say, my recent new favorite, whole dried bananas, which I similarly consume like a wild beast. So, the solution will be to unlearn emotional eating and shift toward more meal planning, which can include these foods but no longer as random snacks. Finally, banana ice cream (made from only frozen bananas) tastes exactly like ice cream to me, and when I have it I tend to take large servings. Awaiting more info on this interesting subject.

      5. Thank you for your response. The liver issue concerns me as this is not the first time I have heard people mention concern that excessive fruit – high sugar fruit, regardless of fiber content – could be harmful to the liver. I do wonder if excessive high sugar fruit consumption is just low grade alcoholism, yet with sobriety.

      6. I’m a fruit bat and due to sleep problems, always crave a fruit smoothie late at night. Sometimes it’s good for me if I don’t over do it, but sometimes I’ll end up wanting more, and I’d say yes to a degree it can be addictive, it might be because I’m doing smoothies instead of chewing the food, and the sugar spike is swifter and stronger?

    2. Its important to recognize that its sugar sweetened beverages, snacks, and fruit juices that are the major source of fiber-free and rapidly absorbed fructose in Western diets. Its big doses of fructose all at once which overload the liver (inducing de novo lipogenesis), with downstream effects like increased LDL/VLDL, hypertriglyceremia, insulin resistance, and higher protein glycation from the fructose that gets through. Whole fruits contain fiber and are incompletely chewed which slows their sugar absorption.

      There are some chemoprotective phytochemicals that come only from fruits and all the epidemilogical evidence favors some fruit daily. Personally I prioritize the ones with higher densities of flavonoids per calorie (in descending order: elderberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, lemons, strawberries, currants, kumquats, raspberries, grapefruit…). These range from 7-44% fructose (by calorie), but spread intake of 3 servings of whole berries/citrus through the day, avoid added sugars, and you’re still only getting about 4% of your calories from slowly absorbed fructose (vs. about 11-12% of quickly absorbed fructose in the average American diet).

        1. Fruit can range from 7% to about 60% fructose (by calorie), with the average around 40%. Its pretty well impossible to get 70% of calories from fructose eating whole foods.

          Mind, a zero-saturated fat diet confers other advantages that may cancel out high fructose diet effects on plasma lipids. Perhaps the main concern would be higher advanced fructation product formation, which has been observed in Czech vegetarians eating a lot of fruit/honey.

      1. Darryl, regarding the elderberries. Do you make an extract or are you able to consume them whole?

        About a year ago I added whole elderberries to my smoothie and I experienced nausea….subsequently I made an extract that I keep frozen and use when we are fighting a viral infection. It did not previously occur to me to consume elder berries on a regular basis as your comment suggests. Thanks.

        1. I haven’t found elderberries locally. That list is simply from combining data from the USDA database for flavonoid content with other USDA nutrient data. Elderberries have a ton of cyanidin (well, 0.5%).

          Among berries, I mostly consume strawberries (daily morning smoothie with a cup of frozen strawberries, half banana, cup water, 3 tbsp flax seed, 2 tbsp wheat germ), as their flavonoid, fisetin, appears particularly potent in inducing cellular stress responses and crossing the blood brain barrier. Fisetin is also found at lower concentrations in apples and higher concentrations in the Japanese wax tree (the source for supplements).

          Obviously getting my fructose in a smoothie rather than chewing each berry doubtless makes for a higher blood fructose spike. Oh well, perfection is for monks.

        2. Have a look at this paper:

          Cancer Causes Control (2010) 21:1183–1192

          “We found that high consumption of cruciferous vegetables was associated with thyroid cancer among women with low iodine intake (OR = 1.86; 95% CI: 1.01–3.43 for iodine intake <96 ug/day). The high consumption of cruciferous vegetables among Melanesian women, a group with mild iodine deficiency, may contribute to explain the exceptionally high incidence of thyroid cancer in this group."

    3. The fruitarians have no choice but to consume that quantitiy of food. They are constantly in search of calories and the only way to do this would be to eat an absrud amount of fruits per day. I am unsure of the health consequences, if any, of eating pounds and pounds of fruit per day.

        1. Although we can make these types of comparisons, one cannot consume 2,000 calories per day and achieve macro nutrient and micrnoutrient needs on a strict fruitarian diet. You can test it yourself using the cronometer. One needs to eat 3,000+ calories per day to achieve nutritional needs on a fruitarian diet. I know of no evidence showing that a fruitarian diet is more healthful then a whole foods vegan diet with cooked food.
          http://cronometer.com/

          1. Nature(or the creator is much more intelligent than his creatures if you believe~) is way more evidence than human science naturally~

            Or there is another answer: maybe it is because all RDA are way overestimated(from 100% to 500% like Shelton hygienism and reality* demonstrated) I use cronometer and i changed all nutritional targets because the official ones are ridiculously too high especially for a the least toxic diet~

            Raw ripe fruits are the food that contains the least toxic substances and are the easiest to digest for our specy, i’m pretty sure most peoples know it on this site; i hope~

            *two strong example:

            http://imageshack.us/f/33/hb2q.png/

            http://imageshack.us/f/543/jg7o.jpg/

            1. I am unsure of the validity of your statements, I am not interested in philosophical debates regarding nutrition. If you have solid facts from studies, such as those from peer reviewed journals then please do share. The images you keep linking are not supportive.

              1. Allright, actually the calcium chart comes from a John Mcdougall article, he is not really a person but i guess the peoples on the chart with healthy bones living with only 200-400mg and the Yanomamo indians peoples doesnt exist because science and papers say it is not possible~

                1. We are in agreement for the DRI of calcium and sodium, as it is definitely too high.

                  Calcium needs for humans are not as high as the DRI may recommend, and if we consumed a low sodium diet low in animal protein, our calcium needs can be as low as 450 mg per day as discussed more extensively in this article from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. As represented in the figure below, and citing from the article “In a western-style diet, absorbed calcium matches urinary and skin calcium at an intake of 840 mg as in Figure 14. Reducing animal protein intakes by 40 g reduces the intercept [calcium balance] value and requirement to 600 mg. Reducing both sodium and protein reduces the intercept value to 450 mg.”

                  http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/Y2809E/y2809e0h.htm#bm17

                  It is well understood that our minimum intake of sodium is indeed quite low and there is no need to consume dietary sodium.

                  The issue is most of the RDA’s are used as a bare minimum to prevent a deficiencies so we should make sure this is understood. Dr. McDougall does not at all advocate a fruitarian diet and Jeff Novick, the primary dietician who runs the forums for Dr. McDougall, has spoken against it during several instances.

    4. Fruitarians tend to also break their addiction to shuffling from one chair to another by running, riding and or working out more than high fat and or high protein consumers especially those that cook most of their foods or food mimicking meals. Huge difference of energy available vs energy needs.

  2. For someone who claims to scour the world for nutrittion research, I can’t understand why nothing has been said here about the Gluten Summit which was heard around the world over the last week by 110,000 people including doctors and everyday people trying to get well on the stuff that is promoted and not working for us. The speakers at the summit included the most qualified scientists, doctors, neurologists etc. in the world. Everything points to no grain and more fat (the brain is 70% fat) plus lots of vegetables. Everything that has been thrown at us for the last 20 years or more has been turned on its head. Fat does not cause heart disease. Grains, lactose and sugar are the culprits.

    1. Wrong. All wrong. Spammer really. Using this forum to spew bad information and draw others to your interests. Please remove your post. Thanks.

      1. I second your post. As usual these people make all sorts of claims but they have no peer reviewed research to back it up. It’s dietary religion.

      2. What interest Tobias? I have no financial interest in what I posted. I am simply a person who is interested in researching facts, and also seeing results. Is encouraging people to take personal responsibiity for their health by examining scientific data from the world’s top researchers in their fields, including results from ‘real’ peaple, spamming? I overcame multiple sclerosis and am now battling celiac and have come to realise the gluten link between the two. Just wanted to share what I had learned. You will notice I did not include any link.Those wanting to know more can find more information themselves and then make their own decisions. After all, this is supposed to be a site that shows the latest in the world’s nutrition research. I wish you well, Tobias. I will not post here again nor visit the site.

        1. Not participating in this site is your choice. The gluten issue isn’t as much of a concern as the publicity suggests, as only a small proportion of the population has celiacs. Anyway. If you’re leaving, please remove your post first.

          1. Actually, the gluten issue is a concern to far more people than those that just have celiac. Lives are changed by going off gluten for the gluten intolerant.

            Also, Dr. McDougall, one of our favorite vegan authorities, claims on his website that gluten can be a causative factor in mental illness. Some noteworthy Doctors from Columbia University have raised some red flags as well. Gluten intolerance is the real deal for a lot of people, not just a few. And in my experience, the people who abstain from gluten for 6 moths (they walked the talk) are amazed at how much better they feel without gluten – and other grains as well.

            1. It is a real problem — but, apparently, only for a minority, less than 1% of the population, though I could be terribly wrong about this. I believe the Egyptians used wheat for a very long time, no?

              1. Yes, 1%, but what strikes me as fascinating is that 100 percent of the vegans I know who have gone off grains completely, no cheating, for 6 months all claim they feel better. I have no discourse on these matters with meat eaters, it’s the vegans I know that sing the praise of being grain-free. I had no idea before hand, and it took walking the talk for six months to realize that going grain free could quite possibly help way more than the 1%.

                I do know vegans who eat gluten and or grains and seem to have good health, but they do admit that they have no frame of reference for what I am talking about as they have never experienced in their own bodies how it feels to be grain free.

                1. Please use your real name. This lends credibility to your statements. Anyway. You didn’t mention what your sample size was in this little personal survey of friends. Therefore, it’s impossible to reply to you. This site is about science, mr guest.

            2. If someone has a food-related disorder like Celiac’s or Phenylketonuria or any of the myriad things that can go haywire in our biochemistry then we should treat the problem AND NOT condemn the food as universally bad. Unless of course the “food” is not real food and IS universally bad. We know that humans should eat whole foods/plant based. Spread that message and you will extend lives, help mother Earth and improve geopolitics. No flags, no magic potions just good nutrition.

                1. helena there is a whole foods plant based version of atkins style diet reviewed on this site http://nutritionfacts.org/video/plant-based-atkins-diet/. I think from my understanding that often eating a high fat whole foods plant based diet can be something that happens when transitioning as well. When i was younger and became ill, even someone adding a small amount of wheat would give me a headache but once I became well this was no problem. I think the issue with cutting out all grains is that they can stabilise blood sugar over a long period although legumes look fabulous for this. I think there is a lot of possibilities within the plant based whole food diet and i hope you find what works for you.

    2. I do not know the details of this summit, but if it were legitimate, there would be countless studies showing that this position is true. We do not see this in the iterature, and in fact, all studies on whole grains show reduced risk of all chronic diseases.

  3. Great vid as usual, getting down into the hard science! You always hear vegan apostates tell the story of how going vegan made them feel weak or unhealthy (usually junk food vegan at that and claiming they gained weight without meat/dairy) and they just had to have it. Of course, when you take away all the foods that originally stimulated their dopamine, they are going to go through withdrawal and feel like crap til they get over it. Psyche-man Lisle gives a great explanation on TedX if you don’t have time to read his (and Goldhamer’s) book The Pleasure Trap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jX2btaDOBK8.

    1. DanielFaster: I like the content of The Pleasure Trap, but the wording leaves a lot to be desired. I loved this short video and plan to share it with friends. Thanks for posting the link.

    2. I can feel no sense of measure
      No illusions as we take
      Refuge in young man’s pleasure
      Breaking down the dreams we make
      – Rabin, Squire & Horn

  4. I agree that binge-eating and overeating would be beneficial to be classified as an addiction, but I don’t think I would lump ALL obese people in the “must have mental illness to be obese” category. Also I think the “fat is similar to sugar in its effect on the body” was nicely demonstrated in the movie “Supersize Me”.

  5. This explains a lot of the emotional reaction I get from family and friends. They range from a defensive “don’t tread on me” to openly angry attacks. When you are Jonesing for grease things can get pretty ugly. I’m so lucky I had strong support for that critical first 3 weeks.

    1. Coacervate: Well said. Having support is vital. While my parents didn’t immediately jump on the band wagon, at least they didn’t try to discourage me and were mildly supportive. I’m impressed you were able to get through the initial hurdles when you had family and friends who were offering negative emotional reactions. That’s tough!

      1. Thank you. You are one positive and supportive person too. I think about the “team”…including Mcdougall’s Army and Essies FOK and the retrospective respect people have for Kempner, Ornish, Pritikin…the tide is turning. The media is powerful and people are starting to get it. People who used to go all weird and defensive…those same people now tell me they have 1 meatless day a week. If we can just get to the children and teach the schools to teach them good nutrition…oh happy day. As for family…those are the toughest nuts to crack. They are impressed with my new body but no one wants to give up that darn BBQ. Totally addicted. I’m gonna chain em up to a radiator or something. Make them watch a slaughter house cam. Watch what we do to animals and our “food”. Chain em up and send them to the 7th day Adventists for 3 weeks. I’d better stop now :) Someone will take me seriously. Thanks Thea. I see what you do here. Very thoughtful.

  6. I’ll stick to McDougall and Dr. Greger’s fact checking till I hear anything that sounds even a little realistic on the other side. I’ve tried all those theories and they nearly killed me. It’s hard to argue with eating fresh whole food, including basic whole starches, high fiber and nutritious…little fruit. I feel better than I have in years. Thanks Dr. Greger for carrying the message of good health through what we eat.

  7. Brilliant. This is similar to society first learning that cigarettes were addictive AND that the industry knew it and hid the facts from us. They’re paying now, yet the battle goes on. Addictions are very hard to break.

  8. So, you admit that junk food is addicting and then your solution is just to eat healthy foods and eventually your dopamine receptors will be more sensitive. But…that’s like telling a crack addict to go cold turkey and if they wait long enough they won’t be addicted anymore. It just doesn’t work like that. I have been able to incorporate many healthy foods into my diet but no matter what, the chocolate and cheese are always there, everywhere, tempting me. Being a food addict is much worse than being a crack addict because the drug of choice is legal and advertised on every corner, and in every store.

    1. But even though it is hard, we still tell crack addicts to go cold turkey. A crack addict can find crack in 15 seconds regardless of legality, so it is ever present in their world too, I have seen crack addicts sell their babies for crack, haven’t seen an obese woman sell her baby for a Snickers…. But, I do understand what you are saying. I can tell you, it is the type of diet, the eating lifestyle that you choose to lose weight by, that keeps your food addiction going and repeats failures. To say ‘eat less fried chicken than yesterday’ is an absurd request to someone addicted to fat, salt, and sugar. You may find changing your entire food world may be what you will find works better. ***And SPICE YOUR NEW FOOD CHOICES so WELL that it tastes better than anything you ate in your ‘old’ life. IF you don’t know how to do that, than find a healthy vegan, or go to vegan FB groups to assist you, your eating world will open up. Be careful though not to get into fats, salts or sugars there either, there are many obese vegans, its all in your eating ‘RULES’. ***You have to move yourself away from the Standard American Diet, not tell yourself to just eat less McDonald’s, less KFC, less peanut butter, less cheese…

      1. (Peanut butter is good for you, according to our favorite Greger!)

        Believe me, I’ve done all those things you’ve prescribed. Of course I eat healthier than I did three years ago, but unless I go and live by myself in a cave there’s no way I can “change my entire food world.” My choices are healthy at home, but do honestly expect me to forego work lunches, church functions, family reunions, holidays, heck even the library has a bowl of mints at the checkout counter! (And don’t tell me, “just bring your own healthy choices,” because that’s hogwash. Would you tell a crack addict to go hang out with his druggie friends but bring an apple along, that’s sure to stop him from craving the drug?)

        I don’t know what drug addicts you’ve dealt with, but are you aware of the low, low success rate of attempting cold turkey? Just google “evidence-based drug addiction treatment” and you’ll quickly find that scientifically founded treatment almost always calls for medication assistance.

        Regardless of whether I’m trading my baby for a snickers bar, food is still an addiction. Would you scoff at the seriousness of an Alcohol Addiction just because she didn’t trade away her baby for a hit of scotch? Of course not. And yet when it comes to food you think the proper “treatment” an addict needs is to ADD MORE SPICES? That’s like telling an alcoholic that all he needs to do is add a little more sugar to his nonalcoholic eggnog and it will be even better than the alcohol version he misses drinking. What a load of crap.

  9. I’m 60 and for the last month have totally given up meats, dairy products, coffee, sugar etc (never too late) I’m really feeling the benefits of plant based eating but am wondering about some ‘withdraw’ symptoms (headache for one) Are there any studies/facts on this or am I overly sensitive.
    Thanks for the great site and advice.

    1. Wow, Rain! How exciting for you!

      I haven’t heard of any studies on this–though I have heard anecdotes of detox symptoms from friends going through similar changes. It seems like our bodies do take time to adjust to any major dietary changes though. Dr. Greger talks about giving our taste buds time to change here: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/changing-our-taste-buds/.

      He also talks about boosting our liver’s detoxifying power by eating broccoli: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-best-detox/.

      Hope that helps! Good luck with your transition! :)

      1. @Tommasina, feeling so much better in such a short time far outweighs the slight detox symptoms.
        Grapeful for your response and links :)

  10. Wow. Wow. Wow. This totally represents my experience when dipping experimentally into both meats and dairy. Wow. And it was immediate as well. . . . and incontrovertabley 100% corrolation. Wow. Really.

  11. That is so deep…. just think of the billions of people today who are not enjoying life to the fullest because of their blunted dopamine response due to our high fat/high sugar western diet… every experience is less enjoyed… so perhaps this is leading to a society that is in general less happy, and consumes more in every aspect to fulfil their life? I’m getting a little philosophical here but perhaps a lower fat /lower sugar diet would lead to a happier society and a more peaceful / less violent world?

  12. That is so deep…. just think of the billions of people today who are not enjoying life to the fullest because of their blunted dopamine response due to our high fat/high sugar western diet… every experience is less enjoyed… so perhaps this is leading to a society that is in general less happy, and consumes more in every aspect to fulfil their life? I’m getting a little philosophical here but perhaps a lower fat /lower sugar diet would lead to a happier society and a more peaceful / less violent world?

  13. Most people eat too much fat, and some claim that we need A LOT of omega this and that, while others say the opposite. My question is, is it possible to et too little fat and how much is the minimum amount needed to maintain good health? Is the 80-10-10 ratio in a whole food plant based diet ideal (eating a maximum of 10% fat) or is it too low? Those eating a lot of fat tend to say so…

  14. Any scientific studies on plant based diets and eating disorders. I struggled for years with emotional overeating and binging, and have been vegan for 6 months now. Is it almost impossible to bing eat on plants due to the fiber content and the satiability factor of plants.
    Any scientific research on this?

  15. I have been vegan for three years, and I tend to binge on healthy foods like raw oats, apples, bananas, dates and other fruit. I am able to down thousands of calories of these things in one siitting. Healthy foods are not the cure for overeating addictions – moderation is. But I guess this doesn’t go well with this sites’ pro-vegan agenda.

    1. Miroslav Kovar: I’m not an expert, but what you describe sounds to me like a serious eating disorder. There is no “vegan agenda” in this regard. To my knowledge, this site does not address eating disorders such as you describe. This site generally shares what the science tells us about healthy eating for the majority of people. For someone with your type of problem, this site would not be offering a lot of help. I would think that you would want to get some professional one-on-one help.
      .
      On the plus side?, at least you are binging on healthy foods. There are people who would envy you since they binge on potato chips and donuts. Of course, binging on any food to the point you describe is just not healthy. I hope you are able to get that problem under control. Good luck.

      1. I understand your point and I don’t want to clutter this forum with discussion about topics it is not intended for. I just wanted to point out that this video is, like this whole site, biased.

        Thank you for the compassion. Yes, it is an eating disorder and I have been fighting it for it for years now, my weight going up and down dramatically in the process. I have searched for all kinds of help, but recently, I’ve become so tired of fighting it, that I just give up and see what happens.

        1. Hi Miroslav,
          Changing to a less calorie-dense but more nutrient-dense dietary pattern *does* fix most overeating issues in the vast majority of persons (you’d have to over 20 whole apples to get 2000 calories, for instance!); however, it is certainly no cure for a serious eating disorder. I’d recommend finding a therapist who specializes in eating disorders and seeing him or her, since your issue is obviously more complicated and cannot/should not be generalized to the population as a whole. Good luck!

  16. Why do we get the euforic feeling after eating salty or fatty food or both as if we are energized?
    Many people assume they need it often when they are tired or hugry.

  17. Why do we get the euforic feeling after eating salty, sugary or fatty food as if we are energized?
    Do they have something in common when it comes to nutrition that makes people addictive?
    Many people assume they need it often when they are tired or hugry.

  18. Are there any similar studies along this vein that also take into account the influence of gut micriobiota over our decisionmaking and biological processes? Maybe there’s a certain gut bacterial population ratio influencing or otherwise helping to produce these results?

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