Are Carbs More Addictive Than Cocaine?


Are Carbs in fact the most addictive substance a human can abuse? Like cocaine, carbohydrates give humans a rush which can lead to cravings in your brain and intrusive thoughts if one goes for an extended period of time with out a fix. But could carbs be more addictive?


Paul Scott explains this theory in his article "Are Carbs More Addictive Than Cocaine". 

Unlike cocaine, carbs do more than rewire your neurological system. They short-circuit your whole body. Your metabolism normally stores energy so you can use it as fuel later but a diet filled with carbohydrates will reprogram your metabolism. Your new metabolism will lock your food away as unburnable fat so when you get hungry again you won't crave anything but more of the same food that started. You have now embarked down the path to dependency. 

"Think of this stuff as more than a drug--it's like a metabolic parasite, taking over your body and feeding itself," Scott said. 

According to USDA dietary recommendations, carbs are not only healthy but are supposed to make up the majority of the food we eat (45-65% of all calories). Carbs, which are classified as starches and sugars, consist of bread, cereal, corn, potatoes, cookies, pasta, fruit, juice, candy, beer, and sweetened drinks, or simply anything that isn't protein or fat. 

In the absence of carbs, your body will burn fatty acids for energy. This is how you sleep through the night without eating. "The brain does indeed need carbohydrates for fuel, but the body is perfectly happy to make those out of protein, leafy green vegetables, and the animal fat you're burning.""Gary Taubes, the award-winning author of Good Calories, Bad Calories said.

As a two Harvard doctors wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association last summer, carbohydrates are "a nutrient for which humans have no absolute requirement."

Programs from Atkins to the Paleo diet are successful because the most important change they advise is to stop eating refined carbohydrates. This only reminds us of what had been the conventional wisdom in medicine for hundreds of years- that sugar, flour, potatoes, and rice are what make a person fat, not meat and milk.

In 2007, researchers at the University of Bordeaux, France, reported that when rats were allowed to choose between a calorie-free sweetener and intravenous cocaine, 94% preferred the sugar substitute. 

The researchers concluded that "intense sweetness can surpass cocaine in reward. . . . The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction." 

Nicole Avena, an expert in behavioral neuroscience at the University of Florida in Gainesville, has spent many hours analyzing the behavior of sugar craving rats. She says that feeding on sugar, like snorting coke, can lead to bingeing, withdrawal, and craving. It does this by lighting up the same circuitry within the brain triggered by cocaine and amphetamines, the dopamine center.

"But eating carbs, especially refined varieties like sugar or flour, sweetened drinks, or starches, causes the body to release the hormone insulin. The body secretes insulin as a response to high blood sugar--a serious, even potentially lethal health risk over time." Scott said. 

Over time, the presence of insulin in our carb-heavy diet causes diminishing returns. As our cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, our bodies frequently release even more of it to compensate. The result is that the body craves more of what the hormone feeds on and triggers our hunger, which works subconsciously, to direct us toward the nutrient at the source of the problem--carbohydrates. 

"Drug cartels can only dream of a narcotic with an addiction cycle this powerful." Soctt said.

Sources -

Photos by Zachary Zavislak 


First of all, I LOVE that picture! It is absolutely perfect! I like most ladies in our class read this because of the word "carbs" in your title. It is no secret that ladies are constantly on the alert for more health info when it comes to their weight. I didn't actually know that carbs were so addictive, I merely thought that my taste buds were particularly in love with them. However, after reading your article a few points came to mind. My father has diabetes and is actually recommended to eat carbs. His insulin levels are normal thanks to diet and medications but i found this article online that was particularly interesting in relation to your blog post:

I never realized that carbs had such an addictive quality. It is interesting carbs are good and bad for the body at the same time. We need carbs to survive, but too many carbs are hazardous to our health. I guess that it goes to show that you can have too much of a good thing. I'll have to think more carefully the next time I splurge on carb-heavy foods!

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