FReferences: Bright Line Eating, Susan P Thompson’s Susceptibility Scale, Validation of Yale Food Addiction Score in Children, Philos Trans R Soc, Wheat Facts, Corn, Am J Physiology, 56 names of sugar,
There is a growing science of measuring addiction susceptibility in humans. Criteria for being an addict include developing tolerance to a substance, withdrawal when use is stopped, needing larger and larger doses, persistent desire coupled with the inability to stop using, spending increased time to access the substance, continuing use of the substance even though you know it causes harm and giving up social or recreational activities to use the substance. Sounds dour and threatening, doesn’t it? Could this be chocolate? Or just plain sugar?
The body of research supporting human food addiction is actually getting more robust as we look at our obesity epidemic and ponder what is driving it. Animal models of addictive eating show that rats given access to sugar or highly processed foods exhibit the classic behavioral and biological signs of addiction (e.g., withdrawal, tolerance, dopaminergic downgrading). Hmmm… For example, get rats addicted to cocaine, then expose them to a choice of cocaine or sugar, and they go for the sugar instead of the cocaine. Hmmm…..
More to the point, functional MRI scanning of active circuits in the human brain show pretty remarkable overlap between sugar, white flour, and heroin.
And processed food appears to be at the forefront of this addictive behavior. What’s in processed food? 80% of American food has sugar or high fructose corn syrup added to it. Often it is given a different name hoping you are willing to let dehydrated cane juice, agave, or honey trick you into thinking it’s not sugar. Some foods even boast that they have no, underline NO high fructose corn syrup, and then have pure beet sugar instead. The difference between the two is subtle, at best.
What is processing? It’s actually very simple. Take a whole grain with the surface area of the grain, and grind it into talcum powder. We call that flour – whether it be from wheat, or corn, or rye, it’s still talcum powder. 10-100 fold increase in surface area, with the encasing protective fiber also gone. When you eat it, your enzymes can get to that greater surface area faster. A whole grain will have a glycemic index below 30% of pure glucose. A grain that has been broken in half, like steel cut oats, will have a glycemic index of 50% of glucose. Just cracking the grain in half increases the ability of your enzymes to access the glucose packed in that grain. But crush the grain flat and call it “Quick Oats” and you increase the surface area enough to increase the glycemic index to 70-80, depending on how finely you crush it. You put out insulin in an increasingly rapid fashion in response to the rapid glucose rise. Insulin blocks leptin in your brain stem, making you want to eat more. And there you have it. Any grain will do the same. Corn is just about the foundationof everything we eat because of its use in animal feed.
But wheat occupies a special place in addiction. Not only is it made into talcum powder but that talcum powder is put into about every package or processed food, be it pasta, gravy, bread, crackers, cookies, or any other form that leads to the 6 oz of wheat flourwe each eat every day. And wheat has wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) in it and that is a special devil. It is an insulin agonist/antagonist, leading to more insulin binding to fat cells, less to muscle cells and more leptin blocking, all of which engineer weight gain and more addictive consumption.
With all that hitting you when you eat processed foods, is it any wonder that you act like an addict? It’s almost amazing we all aren’t.
Do you want to take Susan Thompson’s quiz? This is the link. I’m not sure it’s the final word in understanding why we overeat, but it sure gives you some insight into why we all have so much trouble losing weight. She claims that about a third of us are not affected by addictive tendencies, about a third are modestly affected, and a third are rabidly vulnerable. That would be me. All of us can act with addictive tendencies, given constant exposure and reinforcement.
WWW: What will work for me. I took her quiz and scored an eight. Ha! That explains just why it is so easy for me to start with 8 chocolate chips, then return for 45 more, then finish off the bag. And that done only when there are no human witnesses. The dog, fortunately, doesn’t tell. And I know I won’t sleep well when I do it. And I’m fully aware it’s awful for me. But, but, but……
- What percent of humans are vulnerable to food addiction? Answer: All of us, given enough exposure though only about a third show a particular penchant for it.
- What are some of the features of addictive behavior? Answer: developing tolerance to a substance, withdrawal when use is stopped, needing larger and larger doses, persistent desire coupled with the inability to stop using, spending increased time to access the substance, continuing use of the substance even though you know it causes harm and giving up social or recreational activities to use the substance.
- What is the link with flour products to addiction? Answer: the more a grain is ground up, that easier it is to digest, and the faster blood sugar goes up. That results in greater insulin release, resulting in more leptin blockade and fat storage
- Explain to me what WGA is? Answer. Wheat germ agglutinin is a small protein in wheat germ that messes with your insulin receptors, pushing calories into fat but starving muscles. This results in disordered glucose management, and makes for your gaining weight and developing diabetes.
- Dehydrated cane juice is safe to use as it is a dryer form of sugar. T or F Answer: Please, please, please tell me that you didn’t fall for that. There are over 56 names for sugar. If you answered yes, click this link and learn the other names.