It should be no surprise that people have so much trouble staying on diets, or that obesity in the Western world continues soaring beyond all prior records.
New research into the neurological effects of junk food consumption is increasingly confirming that eating sugary, high-fat foods produces exactly the same effects as taking street drugs like heroin, with predictably similar results.
Animal studies have confirmed that eating junk food causes the release of pleasure chemicals in the brain, and that regular consumption actually causes these pleasure centers to become desensitized. This drives people to eat greater and greater quantities of junk food to get the same rush, in an identical procedure to that characteristic of substance abuse.
Researchers have even observed junk-food-addicted animals starving themselves for weeks rather than eating healthy food.
The findings suggest that people shifting away from unhealthy diets should approach the effort as one of breaking addiction, not just a matter of willpower. Taking the addictive power of junk food seriously might, in the long run, make it easier to cook the habit.
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