Food as a Drug of Choice

Researchers have long known that food and eating can release similar chemicals from our brains as those involved in drug addiction; eating and using drugs both release dopamine. This certainly explains a lot about how so large a segment of our population has reached levels of obesity never before seen. With all of the modern stressors that are placed on people, particularly during the last few years of such uncertain economic times, “comfort foods” may have become a little too comforting.

What have we learned?

Some studies have even suggested that the diversity in our foods also plays a part in the high levels of overweight people. By keeping our food varied and interesting, we tend to eat more, whereas a limited menu would not cause a physiological response as we’d tend to be bored by it. Boring meals, it seems, may be a plus when it comes to losing weight.

A study reported in August’s issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition seemed to bear out the fact that as people are exposed repeatedly to the same foods, even those which they love, they become less interested in that food. This was true in both ‘normal’ sized participants and obese individuals.  This supports what the researchers called “habituation”, which spells out the disinterest in the drug of choice; in this case the drug is food. In fact, the authors of the study came to the conclusion that a reduction in variety may be strategically important for those who want to lose weight.  That might be one reason why Atkins and other very restrictive diets work so well.

What does it mean?

Neural activity is similar whether eating or craving a favorite food; these activities are also similar to those who abuse drugs, as reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry. This study correlated people with higher food addiction scores with their greater brain activity during the anticipatory phase before the time they actually got to eat the food. This led researchers to conclude that their obesity may often be the result of an addictive process. This study measured the neural activity with fMRI while anticipating a chocolate milkshake, and also during consumption of that milkshake.  The participant’s food addiction scores directly corresponded to activation in certain areas of the brain known to be important in eating motivation as well as substance abuse.

No associations were shown between BMI and the participant food addiction score. Those same scores were found to correspond with emotional eating, however. This led the researchers to question whether a more representative group might provide more accurate results.

How can it help?

Further studies are sure to follow, and should provide even greater understanding of obesity and physiology. True food addictions can be broken down so that there are more effective ways to treat them.  Now that it’s known that meal monotony likely leads to a reduction in calorie consumption, balancing that concept with enough variety to still provide adequate nutrition will be vital.  Other studies will report on differences in healthy weight people and the obese, and hopefully give us enough information to optimize eating plans for each segment of people.

Biking is an extremely helpful exercise when attempting to lose weight. Buy yourself a good quality bike and helmet, and also compare bike insurance, before setting out on long but healthy rides.

Take Your Calcium!

Calcium is not only an important mineral to the human body, it’s required for proper functionality in a number of systems in persons of all ages. Whether young or old, male of female, lacking the proper levels of Calcium can cause irreversible damage to the individual.

When young, peoples bodies are growing and developing. Bones are constantly adding layers and strength. Science has proven that the more bone density developed in ones body early in life the better that individuals chances are at sustaining disastrous effects of brittle bone diseases as they age.

Calcium FoodsIn order to get those bones big and strong, mothers have known forever they need to feed their children milk, cheese, and a variety of dairy products. In addition to these foods being containing high levels of Calcium, they also have adequate supplies of Vitamin D, which promotes the normal mineralization of bones.

Unfortunately, young girls and women tend to get less than half of their daily required levels of Calcium. As such, the much needed development of bone density is severely curtailed. The consequences of less than desirable bone densities is the sharp drops and subsequent fragility of the female’s bones as she ages.

While most children require fewer of their calories to come from milk and other dairy products as they get older, their needs for Calcium do not decrease at the same percentages. If not consciously replacing the Calcium from the dairy products with other natural sources like fresh broccoli, yogurt, etc. deficiency will begin.

Because the effects of being Calcium deficient take many years to show themselves, one may not even be aware of the current state of their bone and blood health.

It has been shown that without proper daily levels of Calcium, blood coagulates poorly, bone and teeth production and maintenance are inhibited, muscle contraction may become increasingly difficult, and cardiac actions can be adversely affected.

For many years, the standard levels of daily recommended Calcium intake may have been as low as 25% to 50% of what scientists and doctors now believe is necessary for optimal health and survival.

This means that if ones diet does not consciously include the proper types and amounts of food needed to produce from 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of Calcium every day, supplementation will be required. New recommendations for children indicate a need for approximately 1,200 milligrams. Women aged 25 to 50 should look to level doses around 1,000 mg.

Men are certainly not in the clear when it comes to experiencing the debilitating effects of Calcium deficiency. With many adults only at approximately 50% of their optimal Calcium intake, men are already in the red. Consider that a good amount of the body’s Calcium is evacuated through perspiration, urination and other bodily wastes and the decline is inevitable.

The male is fortunate in the fact he generally develops more bone mass and density in his formative years. This still does not prevent him from experience diseases like osteoporosis, hardening of the arteries and cardiac connective tissues and other Calcium deficiency related conditions.

Evolution is changing the sheer number of human adults who are able to adequately digest the lactose in milk and other dairy products as they age. If one is fortunate enough to fall into this category, they should be able to help maintain proper Calcium levels by simply drinking a glass or two of milk each day.

For those who have challenges with dairy digestion, serious consideration should be given to substituting other foods naturally high in Calcium or implementing a supplement program which will help maintain proper levels of the mineral in the body. Talk to your family doctor about this before taking any supplements.