Fat Is the Food Junkie’s Track Marks

In a bit of news sure to elicit a resounding "Yep!" from junk-food addicts everywhere, a just-released study suggests that fatty, sugary foods affect the brain in ways much like heroin and cocaine.

The study, soon to be published in the journal Nature Neuroscience (and thus not online), followed three groups of rats for 40 days. The first was fed regular food. The second was fed unhealthy foods like bacon and frosting, but only for an hour per day. The final group was fed the unhealthy foods unrestrictedly, up to 23 hours a day.

Naturally the rats in the third group turned into porkers. But as the researchers found, writes CNN, "the rats in the third group gradually developed a tolerance to the pleasure the food gave them and had to eat more to experience a high. They began to eat compulsively, to the point where they continued to do so in the face of pain. When the researchers applied an electric shock to the rats' feet in the presence of the food, the rats in the first two groups were frightened away from eating. But the obese rats were not."

Whoa! Here's another money 'graf:

"The fact that junk food could provoke this response isn't entirely surprising, says Dr. Gene-Jack Wang, M.D., the chair of the medical department at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Upton, New York.

'We make our food very similar to cocaine now,' he says."

Wait...Gene-Jack? All rightie. Anyhoo, Dr. Wang has a point: chewing on coca leaves was one thing, but when we learned how to make it into a snortable powder, the stuff got a lot more addictive. Back when nature's candy was the only candy, it was a lot harder to OD on it. You ever tried eating twelve oranges? But with the refined, purified, oodles of chocolate-coated flavor blasted vitamin-enriched crapola we have on grocery store shelves, eating becomes less like eating and more like injecting sugar and fat right into your brain. It's no accident we talk about needing a chocolate fix.

By the way, you may recognize this same food equals heroin logic from the bestselling book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, which comes to roughly the same conclusion as this latest study.