Addiction, Food & Our Kids

Sugar & Fatty Foods

Researchers from Princeton and University of Florida studied rats that binged on sugar. When the sugar was taken away from these rats, they went through withdrawals likened to a drug addict going through re-hab. The sugar-loving rats showed teeth chattering, shaky front paws and body shakes. Two weeks later, they were allowed to consume sugar once again, ‘they pressed the food lever so frantically that they consumed 23 percent more than before’ (Aratani, 2008). Crazy, or is it? Reports from 2011 revealed that rats given a fatty liquid diet began producing what is called endocannabinoids in their digestive tract, the same chemicals produced after marijuana use, which keep people wanting more.

Chocolate Milkshakes?

The Oregon Research Institute did studies on kids who looked at chocolate milkshakes and then later ate them. Through brain scans the scientists found that children who eat ice cream regularly need more each time ‘for the reward centers of their brain to tell them they are satisfied’ (Parker-Pope, 2011). This same effect happens in drug and alcohol addicted populations, they need more and more to get their high. These findings may suggest that sugar is a bigger drug than we think.

It is the kinds of foods we are eating that is leading to addiction. Dr. Kelly D. Brownell is the director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. She says that humans can handle foods found in nature, we are biologically adapted for this, but not all of the processed foods we are consuming.

We don’t abuse lettuce, turnips and oranges,” says Dr. Brownell, co-editor of the new book “Food and Addiction.” “But when a highly processed food is eaten, the body may go haywire. Nobody abuses corn as far as I know, but when you process it into Cheetos, what happens?” (Aratani, 2008).

Food companies and their scientists make it a point to make our tastebuds go crazy. When foods are found naturally in nature, this just doesn’t occur. Food scientists employed by big food companies like Pepsi, Coke and Frito-Lay spend countless hours in the lab creating flavors that are considered “hyperpalatable” which means they take salty, sweet and fatty ingredients along with mouth-feel to create precisely the exact combination to send our mouth and our brain to the moon (sound like drugs, anyone?). When it comes to our kids, why would they want to eat a carrot when they could eat Doritos? The amount of salt and processed flavorings have hijacked their tastebuds and their brains and rewired both to think that this is how food should taste. Is it no wonder we have food battles to try to get our kids to eat healthy? And given this information, it should be no surprise that kids are throwing out their new lunches in bagfuls. They ‘need’ their chicken nuggets, french fries and pizza, which have been the norm at schools for decades. And can we blame them?

Dr. Brownell goes on to say:

Brain science should lead us to question how food companies are manipulating their products to get us hooked. “With these foods, personal will and good judgment get overridden. People want these foods, dream about these foods, crave them.” (Aratani, 2008).


Re-train their brains by re-training their tastebuds. Our kid’s need us to provide the right kinds of foods for them to develop their palates. Meaning, they need bitter, sweet, sour, pungent, salty flavors, but on the whole foods spectrum and standard, not the processed food spectrum and standard. Don’t let the food companies dictate what our kid’s tastes should be. Yes, there may be an all-out war if you are changing from more processed foods to more whole foods, but stick with it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? Keep introducing whole foods and less of the processed crap and see what happens over time. Get them involved in the food process and explore with them where their food comes from. Depending on how old they are, have them sit down with you and watch a food doc., they are plenty of good ones on Netflix if you have it. But, whatever you do and whatever your approach, don’t give up!! Keep on keepin’ on, parents! You’ve got this. The health of our kids and our future is at stake! You can do it!

Another post that might help ——> Is Your Child a Picky Eater?


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Aratani, Lori. Washington Post, 2008. Slimming Down Schools.

Parker-Pope, Tara. New York Times, 2011. When Fatty Feasts Are Driven by Automatic Pilot.

Pic: Stuart Bradford



  • kyle says:

    i don’t know about you all but I learned a lot.

    • Freshly Grown says:

      It’s fascinating the science behind it all, isn’t it?

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