July 18, 2013
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A staggering two-thirds of Americans are now overweight, and one in four are either diabetic or pre-diabetic.
Carb-rich processed foods are a primary driver of these statistics, and while many blame Americans' overindulgence of processed junk foods on lack of self-control, scientists are now starting to reveal the truly addictive nature of such foods.
Most recently, researchers at the Boston Children's Hospital concluded that highly processed carbohydrates stimulate brain regions involved in reward and cravings, promoting excess hunger. As reported by Science Daily:
"These findings suggest that limiting these 'high-glycemic index' foods could help obese individuals avoid overeating."
While I don't agree with the concept of high glycemic foods, it is important that they are at least thinking in the right direction. Also, the timing is ironic, considering the fact that the American Medical Association (AMA) recently declared obesity a disease, treatable with a variety of conventional methods, from drugs to novel anti-obesity vaccines...
The featured research is on the mark, and shows just how foolhardy the AMA's financially-driven decision really is. Drugs and vaccines are clearly not going to do anything to address the underlying problem of addictive junk food.
Brain Imaging Shows Food Addiction Is Real
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of high-glycemic foods on brain activity, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). One dozen overweight or obese men between the ages of 18 and 35 each consumed one high-glycemic and one low-glycemic meal. The fMRI was done four hours after each test meal. According to the researchers:
"Compared with an isocaloric low-GI meal, a high-glycemic index meal decreased plasma glucose, increased hunger, and selectively stimulated brain regions associated with reward and craving in the late postprandial period, which is a time with special significance to eating behavior at the next meal."
The study demonstrates what many people experience: After eating a high-glycemic meal, i.e. rapidly digesting carbohydrates, their blood sugar initially spiked, followed by a sharp crash a few hours later. The fMRI confirmed that this crash in blood glucose intensely activated a brain region involved in addictive behaviors, known as the nucleus accumbens.