Tuesday, November 10, 2009


As if you didn't already know this, but did you know that junk food is literally addictive in precisely the same way that cocaine and heroin are addictive? Now we have solid, positive proof, thanks to researchers at Scripps Research Institute in Florida and their team of brave (now obese) little lab rats. The rats were given unlimited access to all kinds of high-fat, calorie-dense food that is commonly available in convenience stores. The rats because compulsive overeaters when pleasure pathways in their brains became less and less sensitive, causing them to gorge themselves more and more to get the same high. Even when they were subjected to a mild shock in order to have access to the junk food, they still went for it.
Then, according to Paul Kenny, an associate professor of molecular therapeutics at Scripps, "after 40 days of becoming more and more addicted (and obese), the rats were switched to a nutritious food pellet, they refused to eat anything at all, even though they were clearly starving."
The act of refining the food is what makes it so addictive. Our bodies evolved with whole foods that needed to be broken down through digestive processes before the foods' nutrients and sugars could be released. Cocaine is only addictive because of this refining process, too. The leaves, when chewed by natives, supposedly give a high similar to coffee. But, when refined, the same chemical becomes a life-consuming addiction. Same with heroin or alcohol, same with sugar, same with any refined product.
When you think about it, this principle applies just as well to experiences. Anything, really, that gives you a good feeling. Painting, music, conversation with someone you love, love itself, nature, anything.
So choose your addictions wisely! They're just another fact of life. Healthy addictions can be cultivated to your benefit and enhance your well-being.


  1. I heard on the John Tesh radio show that it takes about two weeks to retrain your body not to crave junk food after you stop eating it and then to switch to craving/desiring the healthy food that you replace it with.Have you heard/read anything like this?

  2. I think it's probably one of those things that's different for different people. As for myself, there have been times when I've gotten hooked on sugar and it takes me about a week to stop craving it.
    I do think that if you clean up your diet for even just two weeks, you'll see significant positive changes in every system of your body and mind. After that, it's way easier to stay there and maintain your healthy lifestyle.

  3. Great info Julie! That's a fascinating study and I'll certainly be sharing it with a few friends.Oddly enough, it was learning about what commercial pet food does to a pet's health that inspired me to give up anything with high fructose corn syrup and other "junk food" additives years ago. I had raised my cat Peewee from a two week old kitten, so we were very bonded to one another. Since I had adopted him when I was a poor college student he ate cat food that was pretty much the feline equivalent of ramen noodles. Once I could afford it I bought him what I thought was better food, but like the lab rats he would rather starve than eat anything but the cheapest stuff on the market. He was already tiny-which is why my fellow students had named him Peewee! So starving wasn't an option. At age 14 he developed hyperthyroid and kidney disease (14 is not that old- domestic cats can live to age 24 fairly easily with the right diet). My pet sitter gave me an article on what's really in pet food, and the first ingredient in most pet foods is..corn! HFCS is also a common additive, along with food coloring and other things that are too nasty to even write about. Cats and dogs can't digest corn, but it spikes their blood sugar and causes them to crave more food. The additives and food industry wastes that are put into commercial pet foods are linked by many vets to kidney failure, diabetes, and cancer. It's pretty much the worst sort of "junk food" on the market. And it got me thinking; if all of those additives and corn products shorten the lives of dogs and cats to such a degree, they certainly aren't good for us either! Sadly I couldn't save Peewee, but I learned enough that I cleaned up my diet and that of my remaining pets after that. We're all much healthier for it today.

    Two weeks is about what it takes me to "detox" after eating sugar during the Holidays. It's tough, because you want to be polite when someone brings you a goodie and at least sample it, but then the addiction starts all over again! If only I could be as easily addicted to brussels sprouts.

  4. Holidays are a particularly tough time to stay on track. I think that would be a good subject to write a post about (right away!).
    Thanks for the idea, Jen!
    I'm sorry for your loss of Peewee, but it's good that you've learned so much since then that's good for you and your other cats.