Complex metabolic systems that evolved alongside our eating habits over millennia are breaking down in today’s processed-food-on-every-street-corner environment. We’re at breaking point, as are the healthcare systems set up to manage our health — and something needs to change.

As governments rush to bring in sugar taxes to combat obesity rates more and more evidence is pointing to the addictive nature of processed food in general. The same neurobiological pathways that drive drug addiction have also been found to be part of our control system over food consumption.

Are you born addicted or does your body learn it?

Over the last forty years, our reliance on highly processed foods has increased dramatically. Supermarkets, fuel stations, convenience stores and increasingly even pharmacies, have become central repositories of Big Food’s latest temptations. Real foods that are either unprocessed or are minimally processed have been pushed to the margins. In the way that people would’ve learnt to use the nutrient dense food around them pre-war, later generations have been taught that highly processed foods that need little or no cooking are preferable – and certainly fit better with our modern, busy, highly stressed lifestyles. How wrong can we be! As our lives have become ever busier and we’ve become time poor, cooking real food has taken a back seat. Parents teach their children, children conform to peer pressure, old habits are lost and new habits take hold.

There is a body of evidence suggesting that genetics can affect how we eat and our propensity to become overweight, but it is a small percentage of people who are affected. Epigenetic influences are likely to be more important, where eating habits of one generation affect the way their genes work and these changes may then be passed onto their children and their children’s children. But this is only a part of the picture.

The dark side of food production

 Perhaps, the most sinister side of our present food addiction problem is the deliberate way Big Food designs foods that hit the magic ‘bliss point’. Many of the foods we regularly consume today are both very palatable and comforting leaving us wanting more and more. They lift us when we’re down, help us deal with stress, or so we think. In actuality the repeated consumption of energy dense, rather than nutrient dense foods may have the opposite effect. It increases the stress on our body and drives the down regulation of our reward pathways leading to symptoms of withdrawal and driving the need to seek out more of the same foods.

Many of us no longer go hungry, even though our bodies are designed to withstand and even benefit from periods without food. We can eat 24 hours a day if we like, and many of us mindlessly graze to avoid hunger ‘pains’ and to satisfy our psychological and physiological addictions . Our bodies get very little time to repair and regenerate when they are not in food digestion, assimilation and excretion mode. Yet we know intermittent fasting is crucial to overcoming the systemic chronic low-grade inflammation that underlines so many chronic diseases.

Added to this are the marketing techniques that have been engineered and increasingly refined to better exploit our emotional relationship with our food.

The hand of big food

How can we beat food addiction?

  • Consider carefully why you make certain food selections, whether in supermarkets, in restaurants or elsewhere. Consider how much of your draw to a given food is caused by your apparent emotional need for the food as compared with your body’s need for the nutrients within it
  • Wean yourself off sugary foods – save them for occasional treats, don’t make them a daily habit
  • Don’t – as a matter of course – reward yourself or others (especially not children) with sweet treats
  • Reset your hunger switch by opting for nutrient dense wholefoods and incorporating periods of fasting as recommended by the ANH-Intl Food4Health guidelines
  • Drink plenty of water between meals
  • Don’t be sedentary – have an active lifestyle and consume ample protein, fats and complex carbs after bouts of moderate to intense activity or exercise
  • Treat chronic overeating as an addiction and treat the addiction by seeing a suitably qualified and experienced healthcare professional, coach or counsellor
  • Find out more about how we – and especially our children – can develop a healthy relationship with natural, wholesome food, as detailed in last week’s article on food addiction.

 

Comments

  1. Don’t forget MSG. It is is the single most common food additive today. Or rather, the reactive component of MSG is the most common food additive today in the industrialised world. Quote from the 2008 documentary ‘The Beautiful Truth’: ‘The number of food products that contain MSG but don’t actually label it as such is now almost infinite.’

    What many consumers don’t know is that going way back to the time we learnt how toxic MSG was, the processed food industry re-labelled it under not just a single other name but a myriad of other names. And this, all for the sake of hiding from unsuspecting consumers the presence of MSG in foods. Why would they want to put a known toxin in food and hide it? Well, because MSG turns off the food satiation switch in the brain that tells us we’ve had enough to eat. It creates a need in us to eat all day long, and since our constant eating is the only way food manufacturers can make the billions they feel they have to, there’s no way they will ever remove MSG from processed food. If we all actually ate only what our bodies needed in a day, food manufacturers would be significantly less rich.

    And that’s why MSG is the most common food additive today.

    Over the years I’ve found it hard keeping track of all the names MSG’s reactive component is labelled under, so I’m constantly checking to see what new names this toxin is being labelled under. Here are some of the names:

    Autolyzed Plant Protein
    Autolyzed Yeast
    Aginomoto
    Calcium Caseinate
    Citric Acid (when processed from corn)
    Gelatin
    Glutamate
    Glutamic Acid
    Hydrolized Plant Protein (HPP)
    Hydrolized Vegetable Protein (HVP)
    Anything hydrolized
    Any hydrolized protein
    Monopotassium Glutamate
    Natural Flavouring
    Natural Meat Tenderizer
    Sodium Caseinate
    Senomyx (wheat extract labelled as artificial flavour)
    Soy Protein Isolate
    Textured Protein
    Vetsin
    Whey Protein Isolate
    Yeast Food or Nutrient
    Yeast Extract

    This website lists more ingredients containing MSG: Hungry for Change

    Quote from Dr Russell Blaylock, Neurosurgeon: ‘MSG is a tremendously damaging chemical. It turns of the switch in your brain that says “I’ve had enough to eat. The mass consumption of this excitotoxin in food is interfering with people’s ability to think and remember and use language, so that our children no longer have the capacity that their parents had. And this is getting compounded because there are more and more foods with these excitotoxins—four, five, six in a single food. So children, small children in particular, are consuming such large amounts, it interferes with the development of the brain as well as destroying connections between the brain cells, and that interferes with brain function, and that’s what we’re seeing nationwide, and in fact, worldwide in the industrialised nations… The food manufactures ignore all of this research even though it’s literally thousands of studies, and the studies keep growing, proving beyond any doubt in the reasonable mind that this in fact is harming people’s brains… A great number of diseases are now connected to MSG exposure… One of the things that people don’t understand is this can be a silent toxicity; that is, they don’t even know it’s occurring. A lot of people will tell me ‘Well, I don’t react. I don’t have the symptoms of nausea and vomiting and headaches.’ Well, a lot of people that are exposed to MSG will not have these symptoms, but they get the same damage. And this occurs over a very long period of time—decades. So brain cells are being destroyed, and until they lose a number of brain cells, they’re not even aware that they’re under this toxicity. It’s a known in neurology that you have to lose about 90 per cent of the neurons in a particular area of the brain before you develop symptoms. So by the time you develop these symptoms, like dementia, or Parkinson’s disease, etc., you’ve already lost 90 per cent of the neurons in that part of the brain.’

    Naturally, MSG is not the only cause of dementia in its various forms.

    Here are a few other quotes from The Beautiful Truth:

    ‘A life lived that matters is not of circumstance but of choice.’

    ‘The cancer industry is about money and drugs, yet all the money in the world won’t save you if you make the wrong decision.’

    ‘Monsanto shouldn’t have to vouch for the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.’ ~ Philip Angell, while director of Corporate Communications at Monsanto, quoted in the New York Times, 25 Oct 1998.

    To close … the world’s corporations never cease their crimes against the planet and humanity, but neither do those of us who follow their evil deeds cease sharing what we learn, making others aware that their individual choices do impact the profits of these corporations. These corporations trawl environmental and other websites where many of us post our opinions and read what we say. So adding your voice, however brief, is not a waste of time.

    It’s good to see Monsanto is taking quite a beating in the EU at the moment. Organic Bytes calls it their ‘Just Deserts’. That’s what I call deliciously sweet news.

    “Medical school never really prepared me for people getting healthy.”
    ~ Dr Michael Klaper ~

    No, of course it didn’t. Because the intent in medicine as decided by big pharma is to ensure people are never well and always dependent on drugs. Doctors are as brainwashed as everyone else. Scientists too.

    Cheers

    “It is a mad time to be alive. As the world population nears 8 billion we face issues too serious to fathom: ecosystems collapse as we witness extinction at an unprecedented rate; migrant crises disrupt governments; a seemingly schizophrenic US helps broker a landmark climate treaty and months later withdraws; ancient tribal disputes and beliefs continue to drive war and division; the largest iceberg ever recorded breaks off an Antarctic ice-shelf and drifts out to sea. At the same time we face issues too ridiculous to comprehend: in South America, tourists twice kill rare baby dolphins that washed ashore, suffocating them in a frenzy of selfies; politics resembles sporting events; people still starve to death while others can order any meat they desire. As a species, our footprint is perilously unsustainable yet we live in a state of denial about the outlook for our planet and our place on it.”
    ~ Darrem Aronofsky ~

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