Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Why Is Junk Food So Addictive?

Have you ever noticed that after eating a meal at a fast food restaurant, you feel hungry a few hours later? Why is that? Are you just plain hungry or is there something in the food that is causing this hunger? If you haven't had the chance to watch the movie, "Super Size Me", click here and watch it now for free!
"Super Size Me" is one man's journey into the world of weight gain, health problems and fast food. It's an examination of the American way of life and how we are eating ourselves to death. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock unravels the American obesity epidemic by interviewing experts nationwide and by subjecting himself to a 'McDonald's only' diet for thirty days straight. His Sundance award-winning feature is as entertaining as it horrifying as it dives into corporate responsibility, nutritional education, school lunch programs and how we as a nation are eating ourselves to death.

Before you start to roll your eyes at this video, I understand that no one would eat all of their meals from McDonald's for a month. It's a little extreme. I know that. But, I was fascinated by the chemical effect this diet had on his brain. When he got depressed, he ate another junk food meal and felt better immediately. Wow.

McDonald's calls the people who eat there once a week, "Heavy Users." 72% of the people who eat at McDonald's are heavy users. "Super Heavy Users" eat there 3-5 times a week. 22% of the people who eat there are super heavy users!

I recently heard a registered dietitian say that people do not get addicted to food, they just get hungry. She said that we can have an "
extreme hunger and the physiological drive to eat" but there is no such thing as a food addiction. Really? Do you believe that?

In 2002, McDonald's took out a full page add in the newspaper in France in which a nutritionist stated that there is no reason that anyone should visit a McDonald's more than once a week. McDonald's corporate headquarter went crazy and responded that this was only one opinion. They continued that the majority of nutritional professionals agree that McDonald's food can be a part of a healthy diet. The people who made the movie, "Super Size Me" contacted 100 nutritionists to see if this was true. Two out of 100 nutritionists said that it was ok to eat fast food two times a week or more. Twenty eight said it was ok to eat there once a week to once or twice a month. Forty five said you should never eat it and 95 of them agreed that it was a major contributor to the obesity epidemic that was sweeping America.

America is now the second fattest nation in the world. Australia has the dubious honor of being number one!
The latest figures show 4 million Australians — or 26% of the adult population — are now obese compared to an estimated 25% of Americans. A further 5 million Australians are considered overweight.
Are we both nations of weak-willed ninny's or is fast food physiologically addictive? I believe there is a chemical reason behind this addiction as well as a behavioral one. Let's take a look at the brain chemicals that are at work in the addiction process. Here are a few videos that talk about the chemical effects behind food addictions. The first one talks mainly about the addictive power of fast food.


This second video talks about the chemistry behind our addictions to food


This third video features Dr. Vincent Bellonzi as he talks about how junk food and fast food has an adverse effect on your health.


Here are a few articles to read concerning the chemically addictive qualities of junk food.
Is Junk Food Addictive?

Burgers on the Brain: Can You Really Get Addicted to Fast Food? What constitutes an Addiction?

Fast Food As Addictive As Heroin, Study Confirms

What Happens to Your Body When… You Carb Binge?

For more information on fast food, obesity and addictions, click on the links below
Why Diets Fail


David Lee Y S said...

GREAT info! Keep up the great info.

Brian Sorgatz said...

To put it mildly, I’m not as impressed as you by Super Size Me. The fact that Spurlock’s doctor in the movie is so baffled by the improbable liver troubles should raise a red flag to intelligent viewers about the placebo effect. After all, who wouldn’t get sick after a month of eating only what he believes to be poison? Given the much more favorable results achieved by others performing similar experiments, I think I’m asking an important question.

I’m not impressed by your multitude of links on “food addiction,” either. Without knowing it, you set a dangerous political precedent by raising that kind of alarm about what goes on in citizens’ brains. Church-lady organizations like the Parents’ Television Council can then plausibly argue the necessity of censoring excessive sex and violence (by their definition, of course) on the grounds that sexy and violent entertainment have noticeable effects on the brain. Well, so what? Every experience a human being ever has takes effect in the brain somehow. Otherwise, the experience wouldn’t have been experienced at all. Free will is a politically necessary idea no matter what anybody ever learns about the brain.

Jeff Iversen said...

I'm sorry Brian. If I had thought you were the only one who would read this post, I might have spent more time trying to impress you. I see that you read my post from Chico, California and you only spent 2 minutes and 16 seconds skimming it. Hardly enough time to really give what I was saying a fair shake. Are you sure you were hearing what I was really saying or did you only hear what you wanted to hear?

I'm sorry you were not impressed by the "multitude of links on 'food addictions'." You might have been more impressed had you actually read them. Did you watch any of the imbedded videos? Oh, that's right. You barely had enough time to read the post. Some peoples minds are like cement; All mixed up and thoroughly set!

Brian, we live in a dangerous world. If you want a safe one, go somewhere where everybody believes the same way you do. In the mean time, I will plot my evil "church lady" schemes to write in my blog and try to bend the will of the people to accept everything I say as the ultimate truth. As you can see, it is my intent to RULE THE WORLD!!
If you are still reading this, congratulations. You might be less close minded than I thought.

Seriously Brian, I think you got all hung up on what you think I thought of the movie and you missed the larger point of the whole post I made here. Do people with addictions keep on doing their habit because they want to? Because they enjoy it? How about the ones who desperately want to quit? Is this just a matter of exercising their free will and making a decision to quit. If you think it is that easy, we must live in different worlds. I have worked with addicts before and there can often be a physiological or chemical side to some addictions. When alcoholics quit drinking, there is still an addiction there and most of them turn to sugar in a big way to meet their needs. After all, alcoholics are not addicted to alcohol but the simple sugar that alcohol turns into. It takes up to two years to erase the effects of their addiction. This is why many of them don't make it and slip back into addiction again.

This post was an attempt to discuss the different ways that people could be addicted to junk food. Maybe not the food itself, but some of the things in the food. I work with people who have these kind of addictions and I have great success in helping them live happier, healthier, longer lives. You can't deny that because you do not see what I see on a daily basis. This is what I do for a living and you can't understand that until you walk a mile in my shoes.

Hey Brian, how about you start a blog of your own and you try to supply a solution to the obesity epidemic in America. Then get personally involved in helping people to implement your solution. Send me a link to your blog and tell me how you are helping people to avoid heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer's and diabetes. I would be glad to know that you are doing something about it instead of sitting on your butt and criticizing people who are making a difference.

mikey777 said...

I was intrigued by that movie. I couldn't believe it when I saw that normal, healthy guy turn into such a mess after only a couple weeks on McDonald's food. His doctor was practically begging him to take a multivitamin or something to help him stay alive!

I thought it was a great flick, and an excellent post. What a wake-up call for America.

Steve v4.7 said...

Good post. I really appreciate your views. I can only speak to personal experience so what follows here is only about me; I believe that as a human being I was born inherently selfish, lazy, and hungry. I was also born with the ability choose how those attributes are satisfied. The real kicker is that I'm saddled with the personal responsibility associated with consequence, and I accept that. What and how much I choose to eat is entirely up to me. Whether or not I choose to focus on base instincts and ignore consequence is also my choice, my responsibility, and I should "own" the consequence. I believe that attitude of choice and personal responsibility transcends addiction.

Excellent blog. Now one of my favorites. Keep up the good stuff.

Jeff Iversen said...

Steve, I agree. It is easy to come up with excuses and give in to your addictions. Taking responsibility for your own choices and actions is the first step and it seems like you are a person that walks the walk on this issue. Your blog reflects your progress in the struggle to be healthy. I have a lot of respect for you!

Eating junk food is a choice people make every day. On the other hand, knowledge is power. I find that most people think junk food might not be good for them but they don't know why. They don't know what is in junk food that might get them hooked and addicted. If I am to take responsibility for my food choices, I would at least like to have a fighting chance and not have to deal with the extra burden of a physical addiction to sugar, fat and caffeine and more.

It's like fighting in a boxing match with 50 lb. weights tied to my feet. I can still box but it would be much easier without the extra hindrance.

Eating a fatty high glycemic junk-food meal with fries and a coke will raise my triglycerides, lower my HDL cholesterol, spike my blood sugar and send me on my way to full blown diabetes or a heart attack. Maybe not today. Maybe not tommorow but eventually, I will get there and that is when most people get "religion." What I mean by that is that they finally see the light about taking care of themselves. People take their health for granted until they lose it. Then they start exercising and eating right in hopes that they can reverse the damage that took so many years to develop.

For me, it is not all about being fat. It is about being healthy and deciding to make good choices today in order to be healthy tomorrow. If it is going to be, it will be up to me. I will not be proud and refuse a little help along the way, though. We all need a little help along the way. I hope this has helped you.

Laura-Junkfoodaholic said...

Excellent article. We own 'Super Size Me' and the whole family enjoyed watching it. I agree wholeheartedly with you that junk food/fast food is addictive. I also believe when we eat junk food/fast food, we are eating nutritionally-empty food and that's why we are never truly satisfied.

Chistina Rose said...

Scary stuff. This is what sucks for me, I can put in the exercise, eat the right foods, but every now and then, I just need some McDonadls! It usually makes me feel sick after but I still keep going back. Hopefully one day I will find something to help me!

Anyway cheers for the info, I have a similar blog you might want to check out...


Hope you like it,



Petula Wright said...

Very interesting information. I don't agree with that (was it dietician? or nutritionist?) lady... I think one can develop a food addiction. But, hey, she's the expert, huh? :-)

Erik said...

Wow! Excellent post! I love the picture! And I did see the movie in question, very scary, and yet people still do it. You couldn't pay me to go to McDonalds. I've got a similar blog on this topic, check it out and tell me what you think: Reap a Destiny

The Fitness Diva said...

Fantastic, well put together, informative post!
And the picture of the morbidly obese child at MacDonald's - PRICELESS!

I see kids just like that in New York City walking around all the time (and in all the states, I'm sure), and just wonder what are their parents thinking!?

I don't think junk food is an addiction so much as the sheer convenience of it is.
To eat healthier, you have to be willing to do a bit of physical work in the form of leg work (shopping) and kitchen work (food preparation). You also have to learn to WAIT. Not so much instant gratification with that process.
Easier to just plop your bucks down at the fast food or pick up a phone and get a pizza.

Americans, as a nation, have just gotten plain LAZY!

Jeff Iversen said...

Fitness Diva,

It all comes down to choices and personal responsibility. There is no one holding a gun to our heads to get us to eat junk food.

It also comes down to having knowledge about what is healthy and the wisdom to make good choices.

What I am saying here is that it's not all about knowledge and willpower. It's not all about convenience and laziness on our part either. Watch the first and second video to learn about what junk food has in it to make it chemically addictive. Click on some of the links at the bottom to read articles that talk about this physical addiction.

Running a marathon is hard. Running one with a couple of 20 pound dumbells in your hand is harder. If you have the drive and the willpower, it can be done. But, by learning about the addictive part of junk food, you can avoid the physical addiction and make your road to health much easier. Eliminate the addiction and eliminate this distraction to good health.

BK said...

I came across a saying once, "Fast food are food for the young; you died young eating them." Might not be exactly true. I find it partly amusing and partly a sad truth. Fast food seems to be one of the reasons creating 'bigger' people in nations around the world. I have stopped eating fast food for quite a while. Not really because of the saying above, but more because that I do not really craving for them anymore.

MKSOL said...

because on salt diet, you can't be full directly, after a while your body needs something to consume.. ;)

trench said...

The film supersize me changed the way I had looked at fastfood forever. I may not be in tip top condition, but I haven't touched a fast food resturant in over two years. McDonalds in particular. Its changed everything.

Shea said...

Everyone has an addiction of one kind or another. We fool ourselves if we believe otherwise.

Serge said...

I've heard about this movie and it is true you americans have a problem with eating junk food. it's good other nations are more aware of that problem and regard it as such.

You need to do more then a movie to solve that problem. In Europe, starting from September this year in all the schools free meals composed of fruits and vegetables will be served! And this in an effort to educate healthy food.

Anonymous said...

America is FAT. There's no doubt about this. However, in a recent study submitted by Australia herself, Australia is now officially the fattest nation on earth.

In all honestly, I saw it coming as I subscribe to Aussie news, and report after report was hinting to the aforementioned conclusion. They will swear up and down that they don't eat fast food, so I don't know how in the world they have usurped American obesity?

Feel free to read the entire article here.

With that said, you may want to edit your blog entry with the updated information.

Bobby said...

Thanks for this great post and sharing the link to the free movie "Super size". It was an eye opener for me.

"The world is not going to change, you have to change"

Cool stuff

More power


Jennifer said...

I cant understand why those 2 dietitians would have no problem with fast food.
Perhaps they need a new line of work.

Rachel said...

Wow how very interesting. I must admit that whenever I eat food which is salty or sweet I feel unsatisfied and want to eat more. I also find that if I eat a huge meal - especially at a restaurant - that I want more food very quickly afterwards whereas if I eat less I seem to be satisfied for longer. makes no sense does it!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic goods from you, man. I've understand your stuff previous to and you're just
too great. I really like what you've acquired here, really like what you
are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it smart.

I can't wait to read much more from you. This is actually a great site.

Here is my homepage 反服貿