Ever ask yourself why you crave those fatty and sugary foods?  Why you continue eating after feeling full?  Recently more researchers are arguing that people who over indulge in palatable foods get hook in a way that is biologically similar to the way cocaine or cigarettes addicts do.

I’m not implying that if you answer yes to the aforementioned questions you are an addict?  That debate is better left for another day.  However, what I am saying is that fat and sugar can hook the brain’s reward system.

Here are the facts.  Palatable foods like cheesecake, cookies, donuts and other “junk” foods highly affect the brain’s release of dopamine, a chemical that tells us, “This feels good.”

Recent studies done on rats show that the heavier the rats became, the more they felt the urge to eat due to the increase release of dopamine. Moreover, functional MRI scans demonstrate that when persons afflicted with this condition see images of sugary foods they experience a lot more activity in the brain regions associated with dopamine release than other people without this condition.

Why?  Well, the answer may lie in something referred t as D2 receptor, that responds to dopamine.  Overeating, over-consuming of drugs and alcohol interferes with the natural process of these receptors; consequently, like drug and alcohol addicts, obese and overweight people have fewer functioning D2 receptors.  Low levels of D2 receptors lead to all kinds of compulsive behavior–including over eating for the sake of achieving that pleasurable feeling.

So, what is one to do if they are struggling with this challenge?  One must make every effort in supporting his/her dopamine levels because any deprivation and the brain will read this as stress thus signaling to over indulge in fatty and sugary foods.  Three things that are proven to work are the following: 1) Eat foods rich in Vitamin B6 and the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine, building blocks of dopamine.  Good sources include chicken, turkey, lean beef, eggs, salmon, tuna, shrimp, crab, tofu, dark-green and leafy vegetables and reduced fatty dairy foods. 2) Removed sugary foods from diet.  Read labels and avoid such things as fructose, OR WORDS that end with -OSE. 3) Get regular exercise because it increases level of beta-endorphins, feel-good chemicals in the brain.  To aid the brain in creating new cells in the prefrontal cortex, experts suggest meditation.  This helps one reduce stress and strengthens impulses control.

NOTE: For more information read article, “Are you a food addict?” in More.com September 2012.