It's almost inevitable that Binge Eating Disorder (BED), or compulsive overeating as it is also known, will lead to other addictions. ALL chemical addictions affect the number of dopamine neurotransmitters. Dopamine has been called the pleasure neurotransmitter but would be better described as the motivation/reward impulse of the brain. Addiction decimates this essential neural transmitter so that only more of the substance can produce the reward "pop".
Substance abuse researchers say that the brain adaptions that result from regularly eating so-called hyperpalatable foods – foods that layer salt, fat, and sweet flavors, proven to increase consumption – are likely to be more difficult to change than those from cocaine or alcohol because they involve many more neural pathways. Almost 90 percent of the dopamine receptors in the vental tegmental area (VTA) of the brain are activated in response to food cues.
Brand-new research also shows direct evidence of lasting and fundamental injuries to a part of the brain that helps us regulate our food intake, the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus. Within three days of being placed on a high-fat diet, a rat’s hypothalamus (the area of the brain that responds to the hormones that signal hunger and satiety, pair and maternal bonding and certain social behavior) shows increased inflammation; within a week, researchers see evidence of permanent scarring and neuron injury in an area of the brain crucial for weight control. Brain scans of obese men and women show this exact pattern as well.
Playing with potato chips is a lot closer to playing with amphetamines or heroine than most people believe. The new pioneering research is helping us to appreciate a holistic and integrative approach to addiction. I was first senior research fellow in NIH Office of Complementary Medicine. Using food addiction as template, THE HUNGER FIX addiction plan integrates personal empowerment, spirituality, along with whole food nutrition and restorative physical activity.