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Why we overeat: effects of a calorie-dense diet on the brain and dopamine system

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

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

(......) now we know fat may have similar effects on the brain (as sugar) as well. You feed some people some yogurt packed with butterfat and within 30 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. Frequent ice cream consumption is related to a reduction in reward region responsivity in humans—they’re talking about the “pleasure center” in the brain, paralleling the tolerance observed in drug addiction. Once we have 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’re 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 of calories in a calorie-dilute diet leads to that numbing of the dopamine response.

... we can prevent the deadening of our pleasure center (...) 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. "

nutritionfacts.org/audio
/nutrition-and-addiction/
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • WHITE-2
    SEAGLASS, will our brain go back to normal if we give up the junk food?
    Going by the information from Nora Volkow (the researcher who made the brain scans mentioned by Dr. Greger) this is not certain. Apparently it CAN get a whole lot better but it depends on many factors.
    It seems to take a long time though. Which is why I tend to think I'd better aim to give up sugar (and junkfood) for good...
    46 days ago
  • SEAGLASS1215
    Very very interesting!! And I have to agree with what it is saying (although I don't want to because then it means I am truly using food like an addict would use drugs, and I compare my food intake now to how I used to use cigarettes - as a coping mechanism and once I have that first puff / bite I cannot seem to stop myself - hence the need for more and more). I did manage to stop the smoking but apparently I have substituted food for the cigarettes.

    If I am able to give up the junk, will my brain go back to normal?
    46 days ago
  • MRSLIVINGWELL
    Absolutely. This is why people would rather be crippled with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure than eat more plants. "I could never eat like you do." is the most frequent thing I hear. Sometimes from people I love who cannot lift themselves from their chairs, who are in constant pain. That can ONLY be described as a change in their brain chemistry.

    Keep these good posts coming! They are spot on. emoticon

    Mrslivingwell
    McDougall Plan Coleader
    47 days ago
  • 1CRAZYDOG
    Absolutely true! Thanks for the link.
    47 days ago
  • LETSGOPLAY
    Wise words from the wise Dr. emoticon so true
    47 days ago
  • RO2BENT
    Mindfulness?
    47 days ago
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