Evidence Mounts that Foods are Physically Addictive
New Book Explores Science Behind Food Addictions. Willpower Is Not to Blame; Chocolate, Cheese, Meat, and Sugar Release Opiate-Like Substances
WASHINGTON—Anyone who’s tried to give up coffee knows that caffeine is physically addictive, and many suspect the same about chocolate, but a new book by nutrition researcher Neal Barnard, M.D., argues that other foods are just as habituating. Cheese, meats, and sugar release opiate-like substances that seduce us into eating them again and again. The book, Breaking the Food Seduction (St. Martin’s Press, June 2003), also reveals how industry, aided by government, exploits these natural cravings, pushing us to eat more and more unhealthy foods.
“It’s not gluttony, weak will, or an oral personality that keep some of us tied to certain foods,” explains Dr. Barnard. “There’s a biochemical reason many of us feel we can’t live without our daily meat, cheese, or sugar fix. Cheese, for example, contains high levels of casein, a protein that breaks apart during digestion to produce morphine-like opiate compounds, called casomorphins. These opiates are believed to be responsible for the mother-infant bond that occurs during nursing. It’s no surprise many of us feel bonded to the refrigerator.”
Rather than look to medications for a solution, Dr. Barnard has developed a three-week dietary and lifestyle program to help people get unhooked. “By adjusting overall diet and exercise patterns to balance our blood sugar and our appetite-controlling hormones, we can become more resistant to cravings and less likely to binge,” he explains.
Book details: Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings and Seven Steps to End Them Naturally by Neal Barnard, M.D., is published by St. Martin’s Press (June 2003). The book includes dozens of gourmet vegetarian recipes by cookbook author Joanne Stepaniak. A 40-city, five-month book tour begins in June.
Author details: Neal Barnard, M.D., is a nutrition researcher and adjunct associate professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. He is also the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the author of six previous books on diet and health, including Foods that Fight Pain and Food for Life.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.