It’s logical to say that greasy fast food, like gambling, sex or petting a fluffy dog, can be habit-forming due to the associated psychological pleasures. But does it contain chemicals that create a substance addiction the same way alcohol or pot does? According to research cited in a recent Slate article, some scientist are starting to say yes.
Interestingly, the brain response to smoking pictures (in smokers) is very similar to the brain response to food pictures. In a previous study from our research unit, the brain response to eating chocolate was similar to the response to cocaine (in cocaine addicts). Finally, the evidence that high calorie foods are, in a way, addictive (something soft drink and fast food merchants have known for years) provides a justification for public policy.
Does the fact that both good food and good alcohol make me feel good mean that they are the same? More specifically, is there a particular chemical that you can take out of a Big Mac that will make it lose its addictive potency, like taking THC out of pot or nicotine out of cigarettes? Not that we know of. Saying that obesity has a chicken-and-the-egg effect with certain hunger-causing hormones does not prove that your McRib is the next crack cocaine.
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