Food is Affecting the Brain and Causing Addiction

Whether it is eating a greasy cheeseburger, a frosted donut or an extra slice a pizza; food has an affect on everyone's brain.  I am not talking about how this type of food impacts one's blood flow or growth of bones, but I am talking about these greasy foods altering the way people think and react in a very negative way.  

A study done by CNN shows results of a test that explicitly show a direct correlation between eating unhealthy and the amount of activity it takes one's brain to come to an answer compared to a person eating a little healthier.  The study goes on to show that in 29 participants the over weight adults had a much tougher time identifying words when written in different colors.  The study used the example, that the word red would be printed in red, or it would be printed in blue making it more challenging to quickly state the word.  The overwhelming results were stated that the healthier and less obese a person was, the easier time they had deciphering the words.  The only problem I have with the study, is that it is not explained how randomly allocated the participants were or anything else about them.  

Another study I found relates the negative impact of food on the brain, to the addiction problem of food in the obese people around the world.   A study was done with three groups of rats and they were given three different eating patterns.  The first control group was given regular rat food, the second was allowed to eat fatty and sugary foods for one hour a day, and the third group was allowed to eat as much fatty foods as they wanted for however long they wanted.  The results were that both the 2nd and 3rd group became fat.  The reason behind the 2nd group of rats becoming obese were linked to the idea that they had to make up for the less amount of time to eat by binge-eating.  A more scientifically explained reasoning is int he article, but that was basically the generic synopsis.  

Now another variable that was given to the rats was that before the study, all the rats were trained to escape a little electrical shock while eating, which would mean they would stop eating and run away.  After the rats became obese from the food, the took no interest in running away from the shock because they had to keep eating.  They were as the article states "ignoring the threat of punishment," which is the same trait that was demonstrated in a similar study done with rats when given cocaine.

Now I am quite aware that people are not rats.  However these two studies are very compelling in that fact that they are not far fetched.  All of this seems plausible to me.  And it makes me wonder, as I open up a question to think about, is it possible to be addicted to food?  And by that I mean, going through depression if one has not had it's normal intake of food, or go through other withdrawal symptoms.  To me it seems extremely likely that it is true, what do you all think?


Interesting blog! I would agree with you that it is most likely true that if you have fattier, less healthy foods you are most likely to have slower brain activity. However, the first study that you talked about only used 29 participants. This isn't a very large 'subject pool' and the results could be hugely due to outside factors such as demographics, college education, income, etc. I did some research on 'brain food' and found that your brain actually uses about 20% of your daily intake on calories. Therefore, you better be filling it with nutritious foods versus fatty ones! Some examples of 'brain food' would be grains, high fiber foods, fish, blueberries, avocados, and nuts.

I think that it is very plausible that unhealthy foods could cause slower brain activity. People can certainly become addicted to food because of how it makes them feel, for example, and this is an eating disorder. However, I find that unhealthy foods themselves can seem quite addicting. The healthier I eat, the less I crave greasy and unhealthy foods. However, If I get in the habit of eating fast food or anything unhealthy, I tend to crave it more often.

I knew that sugar does actually release the same feel good chemicals that certain drugs do, such as serotonin and dopamine, but I searched it again after reading your post. Turns out there are even withdrawal sypmtoms of not having sugar! It is possible to suffer low blood sugar sypmtoms of anxiety, cold sweats, and shakiness according to WebMD. EMily- you are right when you say the healthier you eat means the less you crave unhealthy foods... there is science behind reducing sugar cravings. WebMD says little by little if you reduce sugar from your diet the less you will want/ feel the need for its spike. It's funny because it sounds like you can rehabilitate yourself from sugar, just like drug addicts do.

I found this blog to be very interesting. It made me think of food in a different light. I can understand why some of the details that we, as students in a college level science class, would like in an article would not be in the one from CNN. When reading that kind of sensationalized news, often times the general population does not care if the test was randomized, double blind, etc. In an answer to your question at the end of your post about whether or not people can be addicted to food, the answer is yes. According to Dr. Nora Volkow (director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse) the answer is yes. She presented a compelling argumetn at Rockefeller University in Apri of this year, and According to her, food is just as addictive to drugs. The only thing is, we don't see people running to food like we do to drugs. She even makes a mention that people are skeptical to this idea becuase they believe that a food addiction is not a plausible thing due to the fact that it's not as "addictive" as hard drugs such as cocaine. She makes the argument that the reason for this is because people have a misconcieved notion of durg addiction and that only about 20% of people actually become addicted to cocain and makes a correlation to the low leptin levels in people who suffer from obesiety and says that that's really what prevents them from stopping once they get full. Here's the article if you'd like to read more:

What do you think? Do you think that people will accept food as an actual addiction?

Natasha, I think it all depends on a person. A person that is living a healthy life that does not have a huge intake of unhealthy food, would certainly agree that food can be addictive. But think about it from a perspective of someone that has a problem would have an excuse for what is happening. They would not agree with the idea that they are addicted to food. If society eventually did agree with the fact that they are addicted, then it would be a huge step in beating the obesity in america.

"I did some research on 'brain food' and found that your brain actually uses about 20% of your daily intake on calories. Therefore, you better be filling it with nutritious foods versus fatty ones! Some examples of 'brain food' would be grains, high fiber foods, fish, blueberries, avocados, and nuts."

Hi Quinn, could you clarify the connection between the brain using calories, not eating fatty goods, and the "brain food" you identified? I am just a little confused. What does eating fatty food have to do with your brain's energy expenditure? Why are avocados and nuts (which are both primarily composed of fat) on your list of brain foods when you say we shouldn't be eating fatty foods? I feel like there's not strong science behind these seemingly contradictory statements...

It is really interesting how big of an effect the food we eat has on our bodies and our brains. I read in a US News article that the kinds of food you eat can also have an effect on your mood. For example, eating fatty and greasy foods, especially those high in saturated fat, have been linked to both depression and dementia. And almost immediately after eating these types of foods, you usually tend to feel sluggish and tired. Also, speaking from personal experience, when I miss a meal because I'm too busy with homework or classes, I tend to get really cranky. This is because blood sugar levels drop, which in turn results in a drop in your mood.

I actually did my first blog on a similar topic. I found an article that said carbs were more addictive than cocaine and that food was the most abused substance for humans. Food can provide the same rush as drugs for humans and cause the same cravings. The article uses carbs as the example that once the body has had some it craves more and more of the substance. As for withdraw I do not think food has as drastic of effects but from experience, lack of food can cause crankiness.


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