Saturday, June 29, 2013

Addicted to Donuts?

Can You Be Addicted To Carbs? Scientists Are Checking That Out
Fresh research adds weight to the notion that certain foods (think empty carbs like bagels and sweet treats) can lead to more intense hunger and overeating.

Fast-digesting carbohydrates can stimulate regions of the brain involved in cravings and addiction, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Prior studies have shown that highly desirable foods, perhaps a cheesecake or pie, can trigger pleasure centers in the brain. But what's new about this research is that it shows that even when people are unaware of what they're eating, the intake of fast-digesting carbs can activate parts of the brain associated with pleasure, reward and addiction.

To evaluate this, , director of the obesity prevention center at Boston Children's Hospital, and his colleagues conducted brain scans in 12 overweight men after they consumed two different kinds of test milkshakes.

Both milkshakes had the same number of calories and similar ingredients, but one contained more fast-digesting carbs and the other was made of slower-digesting carbohydrates. The here is that so-called high-glycemic index foods such as sugar and highly processed breads move through the body faster than low-glycemic index foods such as fruit and whole grains.

After the participants drank the rapidly digesting carb shake, their blood sugar spiked and then crashed four hours later. And it's at this point that researchers documented activation of a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, a small area that is involved in emotions and addiction. Ludwig told The Salt: "The scans showed intense activation in brain regions involved in addictive behavior."
I find this to be likely, although to call it "addiction" is kind of extreme.  Food containing sugar triggers pleasure centers; fast food triggers them more rapidly and for a shorter duration.  These pleasure centers are evolved to help us respond to natural stimuli, including food.

Addiction is a similar but more extreme response to an inappropriate stimulus, usually a drug which has no intrinsic value to the system, and for which the system was not evolved to cope with in a manner helpful to the continued survival of the organism.

To equate the pleasant feeling derived from a donut to addiction to something like an opiate is absurd.  And I say this as someone who likes his donuts...

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