Friday, April 9, 2010

Junk Food Addiction

This article responds to an earlier article that suggested that snorting cocaine was no more addictive than eating potato chips. The paper was denounced for minimizing the risks of one of the most addictive drugs, cocaine. However, the same headlines are still making news, only written in reverse. It seems that perhaps the article may have actually understated the addictiveness of junk food, not cocaine. Some addiction researchers might even argue that potato chips — and other high-fat, high-calorie foods — are more effective than a crack pipe in terms of keeping "users" hooked long-term. 

A study was done on rats in order to determine the addictiveness of junk food. Researchers examined three groups of lab rats that were fed various diets for 40 days. One group was given typical rat chow only; a second group was offered rat chow, plus a buffet of bacon, sausage, cheesecake, chocolate frosting and other delectable goodies for one hour a day; and a third group was allowed extended access to the fatty buffet for up to 23 hours a day. The results showed that the extended access group consumed twice as many calories as the other rats. However, what shocked researchers most was that the exposure to high-fat, high-calorie foods changed brain circuitry, making it harder to register pleasure. 

In addition, environmental factors also play a part in addictions, such as  education, background, sources of reinforcement, income, etc. People who did not have such enriched environments were more likely to become addicted. According to Shertleff, "All of these factors — environmental exposure, environmental stress — can have an impact on the vulnerability to obesity or drug addiction."

While I agree with the statement that certain food, and chemicals within those foods, can be addictive, I don’t know if I agree with the statement that junk food is more or even equally as addictive as other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. I think that food is an easier, more available “drug” to get. It isn’t hard to go into a grocery store and buy 5 bags of Doritos. However, it is slightly harder to smuggle bags of cocaine across the border, as well as way more expensive. That, I believe is the biggest difference between an actual drug, and food. In addition, while I can see how some foods can be addictive, I think people, especially Americans, need to practice control within their diet. The whole “food is addictive” thing, seems like a bit of a cop out when it comes to people becoming obese. It seems as though it is being used as an excuse as to why our nation’s waistline continues to grow.,8599,1977604,00.html 

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