Every mother would be appalled at the idea of addicting her
own child to drugs.  But in reality
something very close may be happening. 
According a study published in one of the most prestigious scientific
journals, Nature, obese rats show the
same changes in their brain receptors as humans addicted to heroin and
cocaine.  These same obese rats
participated in compulsive food seeking actions compared to their non obese

Scientists fed the rats three different diets, the first
group ate regular laboratory chow, the second had limited access to high-fat
cafeteria foods and the third group had unlimited access to the high-fat
cafeteria foods; all three groups had 24 hour access to laboratory chow.  The cafeteria diet was of human grade, tasty
and high in fat.  After 40 days the
unlimited access rats became obese while the other two groups did not.  Additionally, after 40 days the unlimited
access group was willing to withstand pain in order eat the cafeteria food while
the other two groups were not.   Finally,
from CT scans performed the rats’ brains; researchers found that changes in the
brain chemistry of the rats with unlimited access to the high fat foods
resembled the chemistry changes of drug addicts. New studies are finding
similar changes in studies on humans.

This change in brain chemistry may explain why obese
individuals feel helpless in front of food and are unable to control their
compulsive eating even though they know it is detrimental to their health.  If the same changes that occurred in the rats’
brains occurs in human’s who eat a high-fat, high- calorie diet, then these
individuals many literally be addicted to unhealthy foods.  This is very important to keep in mind when
feeding children.  If they are constantly
fed high calorie, high fat foods, these poor children are slowly becoming
addicted to unhealthy junk food.  No
wonder children are struggling with obesity at such young ages!  And no wonder children and adults are having
such a hard time losing weight.  Not only
do these individuals have the struggle of weight loss, but they may also be
dealing with an addiction.

Let’s help our children stay healthy.  Try these small changes to encourage healthy
eating and weight management:

Provide children with healthy snacks like cheese
sticks, apple pieces, grapes, or baby carrots and broccoli with ranch

Try to cook at home as much as possible even if
it is something fast and easy like a stir fry.

Give children a protein rich breakfast to get
them through the morning.  Toast and
Greek yogurt with olives, Cheerios and milk, and eggs with oven baked hash
browns are all good choices. 

Pack your child’s lunch for school and encourage
the school system to provide healthy low fat meals and snacks to the students.

Every little step counts. 
Stop our children from getting addicted to these harmful foods and teach
them how to eat healthy.  This important
lesson will last a lifetime and enable them to enjoy a healthy life.


P.M. and P.J. Kenny, Dopamine D2
receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese
Nat Neurosci, 2010. advance
online publication


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