The assignment below is pat of my online english 102 class. It is a rough draft of what will be my final paper for my research paper. Please add any comments about changes i should make. Thank You!!Understanding the Pull
The need for food is primal and a necessity to living. Unfortunately, fats, sugars, and salts were once hard to find. These food products are readily available today and a high delicacy for the body. Because of this, overeating has become a big problem. "We advance the hypothesis that a possible explanation for overeating is that processed foods with high concentrations of sugar and other refined sweeteners, refined carbohydrates, fat, salt and caffeine are addictive substances. Therefore, many people lose control over their ability to regulate their consumption of such foods" (Ifland). Through my research, I have come to find that food addiction has actually become quite a large problem and directly correlate's to the increase in obesity, diabetes and other weight-related medical conditions in our country, and around the world. Food addiction, or the "pull" for foods containing these potent substances and the psychological need for food is the root cause of the obesity crisis. Eating foods that are highly refined, high in sugars, a salt, fats and additives, affects the brain in a physiological and psychological addictive way much like Heroin and Cocaine.
All addictions have similar characteristics, whether it is food, drugs, alcohol, or any other substance that is being abused. The word addiction itself is traditionally associated with drugs and alcohol. Typically, any addiction has both psychological and physiological components associated with it. Now, to fully understand the addictive quality of foods, the definition of addiction and its biological and behavioral effects on people must be understood. Addiction can be defined in a variety of ways. When it is typed into the Internet the online Merriam-Webster comes up with the definition "The quality or state of being addicted" (Addiction), as well as the definition that addiction is the "compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal" (Addiction). Just by the definition it is clear that addiction is really just a coping mechanism. Most often a 'druggy' looks to be someone who is going through a very difficult time in his or her life. Maybe they have lost someone close to them or were in a home that had greats amounts of substance abuse in it.
As mentioned earlier, addiction is not just the physical need for the drug but the psychological need for it as well. Unfortunately, when someone finds themselves with an addiction the will continue constant use no matter the outcome. The British Journal of Addiction explains it very well in the article "Addiction: definition and implication" written by Aveil Goodman. It states that addiction is a "process whereby a behavior, that can function both to produce pleasure and to provide relief from internal discomfort, is employed in a pattern characterized by (1) recurrent failure to control; the behavior (powerlessness) and (2) continuation of the behavior despite significant negative consequences (un-manageability)" (Goodman). This means that the psychological component of drug use, then, would be the need for the good feeling caused by the drug. Over time, the more that the drug is used the more that is needed to achieve the same good feeling effect as before with the lesser amount. If the good feeling caused by the drug were the psychological component, then the physiological component would be the withdrawal when the drug or the substance of abuse is no longer present. The withdrawal is actually just a sign of the body cleansing itself of the intrusive drug, but because of its absence, the afflicted person usually becomes violently ill. Thus, forcing them to take more of the substance to stave off the ill feelings. This is the loss of control that is seen in most addicted persons. "The repeated supra-physiological stimulation of reward pathways by drugs not only stamps in response habits and stimulus preferences, but also triggers neurobiological adaptations that may make the behavior increasingly compulsive and lead to further loss of control over intake" (Volkow).
Unfortunately, the physical symptoms of addiction don't just stop at behavior and physical dependence caused by the drug. The addiction itself rears its ugly head in the affected people's appearance. Every substance has its own side effects such as hair loss and rotted teeth with meth. "Opiates have a dehydrating effect on the skin, leading to eczema, flushing, allergic reactions, jaundice, hot and cold [flashes], swelling and excessive bruising. Orally, opiate addicted individuals often experience a host of symptoms, including gingivitis, profuse cavities and swelling of the oral tissues" (Axis). Opiods are in fact touching and reacting upon the same pleasure centers in the brain as sugar. This drug is for the person with the greatest sweet tooth. Too much sugar over a period of time will actually cause opiod dependence. It will also bring about withdrawal symptoms much the same as the opiod drugs withdrawal symptoms.
Not all addictions are learned habits. Some people in fact are more susceptible to being an addict than others. For instance, a 'drug baby' or a baby who's mother did drugs, smoked and or drank alcohol during the pregnancy, is much more susceptible to becoming an addict than a normally born baby. This is because their bodies have already been exposed to the substance and just as it's addictive to the mother's body so it is to the baby's as well. That means that in a 'drug baby's' genetic make-up there was a problem that caused them to be a more 'addictive' person than others. Not all people who are more susceptible, though, are drug babies. They can be perfectly normal born healthy babies whose mother's took vitamins and drank water and did whatever they could to make sure their baby was healthy. Unfortunately, even with this care some people are just born with that disability. As an example, there is heroin addiction. "Heroin addiction is a chronic complex disease with a substantial genetic contribution. This study was designed to identify genetic variants that are associated with susceptibility to develop heroin addiction by analyzing 1350 variants in 130 candidate genes...sample consisted of 412 former severe heroin addicts in methadone treatment, and 184 healthy controls with no history of drug abuse" (Levran). This study is crucial for this information and is very complex. It reroutes everything that so many people thought that they knew about addiction. Yes, it has physical (behavior and outer appearance) factors along with psychological (mental addiction and need for substances happy feeling), but it also has the propensity of being an inherited trait. Therefore, outside factors are not the only consideration where addiction is concerned. The conclusion of that study suggested "the involvement of several genes and variants in heroin addiction, which is worthy of future study" (Levran).
Research is revealing a genetic component to addiction as it relates to alcohol and drugs, as well as to food. It puts a whole new spin on the phrase 'addictive personality'.
Research over time, has shown that there are genetic components to addiction through the opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors are a part of the brain's circuitry system as well as part of the gene pool. The receptors can be triggered by a multitude of things, a few being sugar (tasty or palatable foods), drugs and alcohol. "The opioid system plays a central role in reward, drug craving and relapse, in part by altering stress physiology. Genes encoding opioid receptors are prime candidates for opioid addiction" (Levran). Because these G-protein receptors are genetically designed to attract beta-endorphins, they become targets for heroin and opioid analgesics. These genes are predisposed to react to any substance that activates these feel-good hormones. This means palatable food. It sets off the trigger in the brain (opiod receptors) that gives off the dopamine hormone, which gives "users" the high that they like so much. Research performed with diabetics, genome scanning research and tobacco research in twins, reflect that anywhere between 40%-60% vulnerability to addiction, and 50-70% of variables in body mass index can be related to genetic differences in those who participated in the studies.
Just as different drugs react differently in the brain and cause different reactions, so do foods. Different foods react differently in the brain and also cause different reactions to come from the brain. One of those foods would be sugar. Sugar is an addictive substance that causes changes in the brain. The sugar in and of itself tastes good to the sensitive human palate because once upon a time it was very difficult to find. Since then, it has become readily available and, in fact, is hidden in many of the foods we eat. It may taste good, but it has bad consequences to the body, such as raising blood sugar levels and glucose levels in the brain. "Palatable foods release brain opiods and dopamine in the limbic system. For example, a tasty food can activate opiod receptors in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and thereby stimulate cells that release dopamine in the nucleus accumbens" (Colantuoni). The dopamine release in the brain is what causes the happy feeling that the addicted individuals strive for, thus causing the addiction. They are not addicted to the drug by itself they are addicted to the release of the dopamine in the brain that causes the good feelings that they feel they need so much of. This is what makes sugar just as addictive as an opiod, heroin and or cocaine. It is incredible just how addictive food can really be. People who are addicted to a substance use it as a boost. They eat or smoke or huff or snort whatever it is because they are feeling low, angry, depressed, hurt, unworthy or even drug out and tired. It is a vicious cycle. The good news is that not all food will affect the brain in such a negative way.
Just like sugar plays a role in how the brain functions, so does good nutrition. Children are told from an early age to eat their vegetables and fruits so they may grow to be big and strong. What parents never said was "this will effect how you think some day." Which, actuality is true. Certain types of health foods help cognition or brain function. "In particular, research over the past 5 years has provided exciting evidence for the influence of dietary factors on specific molecular systems and mechanisms that maintain mental function" (Go/mez-Pinilla). In other words, yes food does have an influence on certain parts of the brain that control brain activity. Eating right helps with sleep patterns and keeping your body looking nice too. The biggest advantage of eating right is being in your right mind. The best 'brain power' food is also considered a super food, blueberries. Actually what's good about them is the antioxidants in the berries. "The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage because of its high metabolic load and its abundance of oxidizable material, such as the polyunsaturated fatty acids that form the plasma membranes of the neural cells. Several 'anti-oxidant diets' have become popular for their positive effects on the neural function" (Go/mez- Pinilla). The brain works at its best when the body is being fed by the best foods. This also helps with mood improvement as well. When an overweight person continues to eat badly they have indigestion, high blood pressure and acid reflux disease. If they were to change what they were eating to low fat and sugar foods then their mood and the feeling of their body would drastically change.
Unfortunately, not all people give up the food they love so easily. This is where food addiction comes into play. Food addiction is becoming more widely known/recognized as a disorder in the medical community. Biologically certain foods rewire the brains reward circuitry. That means that it over exerts the dopamine-containing link in the brain reward circuitry. The over compensation of the foods that over exerts the dopamine link leads to and addictive disorder which is the root cause of obesity. "The model of an addiction focused on processed foods containing high concentrations of refined sweeteners, flours, fats, salt, and/or caffeine is a biologically plausible explanation for this over consumption" (Ifland). The reasons for eating the food are the same as for the people using the drugs or alcohol. They feel not good enough or not worthy of something in their lives. They may have lived in a very controlling household and food was their only source of control that they had for themselves. Eating the food is a coping mechanism that sooths what is painful to that person. Very similar to drug use, the food addict need more and more food to make themselves feel better. They tend to hide what they are eating and over eat on whatever they find. Over consumption of the food that these people eat can lead to negative behavioral changes, which is a part of the addiction. "Self-identified food addicts report that they eat when they feel tired, anxious, depressed, and /or irritable. The hypothesis would posit that this is ingesting refined foods to avoid a withdrawal characterized by fatigue and negative moods...They are aware that they are not hungry and that it is irrational to eat to correct fatigue" (Ifland).
To close this paper a comparison must be made between drug addiction and food addiction. It was stated early on in the paper that eating foods that are highly refined, high in sugars, salt, fats and additives, affect the brain physiological and psychological addictive way much like heron and cocaine. The resemblance between drug and food addiction is astounding. Both sets of people use their own desired substance for the exact same reasons. Their drug of choice takes away the pain that the addict is feeling. Both food and drugs activate the same pleasure centers in the brain. Each addict experiences withdrawal when his or her substance has been either taken from them (rehab or dieting) or is no longer available.