Are you a junkie? I’m not referring to drugs, alcohol or pain medications. There are other compulsions out there that are nearly as detrimental to our health, and yet, so much more readily available that you could purchase them anywhere, anytime, legally, and heck, you could even use a coupon! I’m talking about food addictions.
Food is meant to be fuel for our bodies, but in recent years, due to the hustle and bustle of our society, the quality of our food has become severely compromised by the need for readily available, instantly gratifying snacks and meals with minimal nutritional value. Food manufacturers have produced foods that stay fresh longer, are more convenient on the go and have more appealing textures through use of preservatives, gluten and a variety of artificial ingredients.
Unfortunately, all of these “conveniences” have their repercussions. Cancer rates are through the roof, gluten-sensitivity and celiac disease have become common household terms, and obesity has reached epidemic proportions. We all know what’s good for us and what’s not. So, why do we keep eating the food that’s making our country sick?
Could it really be that food can be as addictive as cigarettes? That’s the controversial conclusion from a study by New Zealand scientists who found that foods made largely from refined sugar and flour have the same addictive qualities as tobacco.
‘Heavily processed carbohydrates such as cornflakes, sweets and croissants quickly raise the amount of sugar in your blood,’ explains lead researcher Dr Simon Thornley, a registrar with the Auckland Regional Public Health Service. ‘This rush of sugar stimulates the same areas of the brain that are involved with addiction to nicotine and other drugs.’
‘Drug addicts have to keep taking larger amounts of their chemical of choice. They find it difficult to stop, they keep doing it despite negative consequences and they feel depressed if they do stop,’ says Thornley, whose paper was published in the journal Medical Hypotheses. ‘People do all those things around refined carbohydrates.’ Studies of brain scans suggest that people who put on a lot of weight could be doing it to improve their mood; the same reason addicts take drugs.
Dr David Haslam, of the UK National Obesity Forum, agrees we must reduce the amount of refined carbohydrates we eat. ‘Certainly, evidence for the idea that these foods are addictive is getting stronger,’ he says, ‘and anything that reduces their consumption is a good thing.’
The obvious question on most people’s minds is, if we are becoming addicted to carbohydrates, and carbs are bad for us, what can we do to break the habit? A low carbohydrate, lower fat, protein based diet has proven in many cases to break the carbohydrate addiction, while at the same time burning unwanted fat and lowering blood sugar (which of course helps
Type II diabetics). Examples of these programs are Ideal Protein, South Beach and Atkins. One study published recently found that dieters who were trying to maintain their weight loss burned significantly more calories — about 300 more a day — eating a low-carb diet than they did eating a low-fat diet.
According to Dr. Oz, “Too many refined carbs – baked goods, French fries or processed snack foods like chips and pretzels – are simply toxic for your body. They’re often responsible for visceral or omentum fat, the dangerous fat you can carry around your middle that actually inhibits your body’s ability to make insulin, which makes you more prone to diabetes. White carbs also increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and even cancer.”
Simply stated, Americans need to cut back on carbohydrates and processed food and get back to eating whole foods (organic, if possible), stop putting so much emphasis on food convenience and start eating foods that will actually help, rather than harm, their bodies. About two-thirds of people in this country are overweight or obese, which increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, many types of cancer and other chronic illnesses. The only way to make a change is to start paying more attention to our food intake. This goes for adults, as well as children. Like all other habits, the younger you start eating the right foods, the greater the likelihood that you will continue proper eating into adulthood.
Dr. Tyler E. Schwartz is a chiropractor at Pure Wellness and co-director of Pro Weight Loss, Inc. Having been in practice for 19 years, he offers a holistic approach to health care. He can be reached at 302-365-5470 or check out purewellchiro.com or myproweightloss.com