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The Neuroscience of McGriddles OR Why I crave fatty foods?

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Old 07-26-2009, 12:01 AM   #1
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Default The Neuroscience of McGriddles OR Why I crave fatty foods?

Okay, so here's a link to some interesting neuroscience research... not done on people, but still interesting.

http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2009/...mcgriddles.php

The research was done on mice. Some of the mice could not taste, but preferred sugar water over both plain water and sucralose water. It's basically saying that there may be dopamine receptors in our brains that can detect caloric-laden foods. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure or reward.

The take-home point? "This is a troubling idea, since it reveals the very deep biological roots underlying the obesity epidemic. Let's imagine, for instance, that some genius invented a reduced calorie bacon product that tasted exactly like bacon, except it had 50 percent fewer calories. It would obviously be a great day for civilization. But this research suggests that such a pseudo-bacon product, even though it tasted identical to real bacon, would actually give us much less pleasure. Why? Because it made us less fat. Because energy is inherently delicious. Because we are programmed to enjoy calories."

This struck a chord in me. I cannot be the only person who feels a hit of pleasure when eating a donut, or a piece of cake (even if it isn't tasty). Right? I'm not the only one, right??

I've often thought I was kind of making that pleasure feeling up, but this research makes me wonder if the reason why I turn to these foods in times of stress is because they DO provide my brain pleasure!! It makes sense why it's hard quit eating them; my brain likes them.

Of course, this idea also kind of pisses me off -- who's in charge here? Me, or my brain????? Or rather, my logical, rational brain, or my dopamine receptors in the nucleus accumbens??!!

Do you think this information could help when under stress and craving those fatty foods??
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Old 07-26-2009, 06:45 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by heather
Of course, this idea also kind of pisses me off -- who's in charge here? Me, or my brain????? Or rather, my logical, rational brain, or my dopamine receptors in the nucleus accumbens??!!
Hon, it's the dopamine receptors.

No, you're not alone. The effect is quite real. It sounds like high-calorie foods are always going to "taste good" even down on the neurotransmitter level. Why, if they didn't, our prehistoric ancestors would have died out.

So, yeah, those types of foods are always going to have an appeal on that level. I suspect that's one of the things behind "trigger foods"--just like with drug addiction.

I think it's important to avoid refined carbs and sugar especially. Fats have great appeal, of course, but combine fats with carbs (butter on toast etc.) and I'm in a danger zone for sure...

Yes, knowing this can help! It helps because it gives you an additional reason to avoid the foods that give you that "rush," and it also helps you expect the rush and cope with it, if you do eat those foods.

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Old 07-26-2009, 09:41 AM   #3
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Thanks, Heather, that's a very interesting bit of research. My brain is getting signals from the digestive track that calories are coming down. Just WOW!!!!!!!!





[Note to self: avoid McDonald's like the plague.]
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Old 07-26-2009, 10:14 AM   #4
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fattening, creamy, and caloric laden foods release feel good hormones. So this is no wonder to me! Yes, that chocolate brownie really does make that Biology exam less stressful to study for!
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Old 07-26-2009, 10:31 AM   #5
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LOL...

I could have saved the Neuroscience Institute oodles of money and gave them the same research based on human studies! Who LOVES diet salad dressing, or diet syrup...or anything diet? We eat it to save calories, might even like it, but do you really LOVE it, more than "regular". As a little kid I remember taking a big swig of my mom's TAB and thinking how nasty it tasted. Of course diet pop has come a long way, but who gets addicted to diet pop first? I have never met a pop addict who started out on diet pop...You know?

Line me up in a blind taste test, and I will enjoy the higher calorie fat laden item more every time. I have loads of Dopamine I guess.
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Old 07-26-2009, 11:12 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Lori Bell View Post
I could have saved the Neuroscience Institute oodles of money and gave them the same research based on human studies!
I laughed out loud at this and made my poor sleeping cat jump!

chocolate tastes totally like a drug to me. If I don't eat it, I stop craving it after a couple of days. I mean, it doesn't take million dollar research and a line up of geniuses to figure out there must be chemical reactions going on there that plays on the pleasure parts of the brain, right?
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Old 07-26-2009, 11:13 AM   #7
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Lori, a really interesting observation about "pop" addiction (and may I say as an aside, loved to see the midwest term now that I live in the South). I had never drank pop until I started drinking diet as a substitute for when I wanted something sweet to eat. And you're right, even though I've had a major, major sweet tooth my entire life I never crave pop.
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Old 07-26-2009, 11:20 AM   #8
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Heather, you might want to rent the DVD What the Bleep Do We Know. They talk about how our dopamine receptors are just a part of the process of getting addicted to something, be it drugs, foods, behaviors and even emotions. Our brains get hard-wired into a response and it makes it really tough to quit. But we can do it, with a lot of work.

The food companies really are responsible for a lot of the obesity in America. Just like cigarette companies would lace cigarettes with substances to make them even more addictive, food companies know what to do to get us to buy more product. It's shameless, really.

If you're interested in learning more about the brain and how to change our reaction to stress, you might want to read some things from Dr. Laurel Mellin's website. I have used her program a little and found it very helpful.

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Old 07-26-2009, 11:36 AM   #9
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I think the only problem that I have with this type of study is that there is the SUGGESTION, not proof. There are no current tests that measure dopamine or seritonon levels in the brain or receptor sensitivity in humans. There are just theories and animal models which often (usually) don't translate at all to human studies.

And this is troubling, because alot of the medications out there for depression and psychiatric disorders are based on this theory. But there are no definitive tests at all. You can't ask your psychologist or psychiatrist to run a test to see how deficint you are in neurotransmitters, or how receptive the receptor sites or. Or if your neurotransmitters are affected by nutrient-dense foods. It isn't like, say, diabetes, where the MD can say "after this test, we see that you need x units of insulin because your are deficient", or "you have had a small heart attack based on the results of your blood work". They can only say that "we think there is a theory about seritonin receptors and that eating certain foods makes you feel good, so we think it is a brain disorder". We just don't know.

My personal opinion? All creatures on the planet are wired to LIVE at all costs. As a result, there is a greater chance of survival if one partakes of energy dense foods. We just may be wired biologically to recognize those foods and to seek them out especially because they, well, TASTE good. Strawberries and bananas taste better to us than arugula and romaine, which is why we put dressing on the greens! High sugar content = usable energy. Salmon is more flavorful than dry white fish -- higher fat content = usable energy. And this is why we have to fight our biological urges to eat energy-dense foods because we live in a world FULL of them. And darn it, they taste better to the average person. So these are sought out. And because of this, fast food companies engineer their foods and alter the sugar and fat content to maximize their appeal, so we'll seek them out! (Just say NO, people!)

Our biology and biological drives haven't changed; the world we live in HAS. And this is what we fight with every day.

Kira

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Old 07-26-2009, 05:07 PM   #10
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SO there IS a reason we dont automatically want to lick rocks

maybe can get a job there. I propose a study:
2 rooms, one with oxygen, another an empty vacuum. Both rooms are odorless and visually identical.
Mice are given access to both rooms.
For some reason, the mice seem to prefer the oxygen room. (except for test mouse #13 (poor thing), who preferred the vacuum, but luckily he wont be around to pass that genetic preference on to the next generation)
Conclusion-Mice get pleasure from oxygen!

(dont mean any disrespect here>>>just having a bit of fun)
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Old 07-26-2009, 05:13 PM   #11
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Nope you're not the only one. When people say they are self medicating with food they are actually doing that. The brain response is one of the reasons I have food issues and why I'm better able to "control" or "behave" when I'm on anti-depressants and exercising. (note the anti-depression meds are for depression not weight loss it's just been a side benefit for me) The medication seems to make up for whatever my brain was lacking and trying desperately to fill the void with food.

Glad to see more research is being done on this.
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Old 07-26-2009, 10:36 PM   #12
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I'm glad to see the research is being done, too!!

Some of you might scoff that the results seem obvious, but I think this kind of research is important to start to learn the foundations of exactly HOW these pathways work. While we might be able to tell the researchers what we experience, it's not like we can point out the specific neural pathways that are being triggered in some situations but not others. Perhaps in figuring out how all this works, we WILL learn some practical applications that are worthwhile for humans. So, please be kind to the researchers!!

I also think it's nice when the research does support experiences we're having. It makes me feel more "normal" somehow to know that I'm not a freak of nature for wanting to eat 4 donuts after I've scarfed down the first one!
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Old 07-27-2009, 11:02 AM   #13
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You are SO way better than me! Usually I scarf down the 4 donuts, and THEN want another! It is hard fighting our biology all the time, with those drives to eat MORE of the good-tasting stuff. And it doesn't help that produced food is often (IMHO) engineered to maximize their good feel and good taste...
Sigh
What's a girl (or guy) to do, except just be vigilant...
Thanks for the link!

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Old 07-27-2009, 12:58 PM   #14
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From what I read, or maybe I read it wrong, the study had mice chose from sugar, water or sugar substitute.
Either the mice favored the one with calories or kaput!
Study would show more validity (or validity) if the mice chose from water that had different calorie levels, while also being well fed. Then it would be interesting if the mice veered towards the higher caloried water for seemingly no reason.
I'm very intersted in human biology, but I just found this study weak-so I scoffed
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Old 07-27-2009, 04:34 PM   #15
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Good point about the study design! I always like to see a good mind at work!
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