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Overeating may be a sign of food addiction

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December 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Do you have cravings for certain foods and nothing will satisfy them? Dr. Pamela Peeke, a nutrition and fitness expert, says science now shows that food addiction is a reality.

In her book, 'The Hunger Fix,' Peeke says a food addiction isn't about food lovers who simply enjoy food. It's more about those who cannot stop eating and get little satisfaction after consuming favorites.

"You eat it really quickly because you need that high, you need that false fix. And then you're immediately consumed with what? Satisfaction? Guilt? Shame? Blame? And then immediately you feel like, 'I've got to have more.' There's no period at the end of the sentence," Peeke says.

Peeke says that's because the reward center in the brain has been high jacked, which means food addicts will continually want more and more food, yet receive little satisfaction.

Research by the National Institutes of Health shows that an appropriate amount of dopamine - the feel good brain chemical - is released in a normal brain when good food is consumed. The scan of a food addict's brain side by side with a brain scan of a cocaine abuser shows both have a scant amount of dopamine due to long term overuse.

"Because the amount of dopamine actually reaching the system is very low, you don't feel that satisfaction the way the normal person does," Peeke said.

Food isn't the only challenge.

"There's all kinds," Peeke said. "Compulsive behaviors that create some kind of high, some kind of mood alteration for people, whether that's food, that's shopping, that's sex."

When it comes to food, there are solutions. Slowly weaning off sugary, salty and fatty foods and turning to alternates helps. From greasy burger and fries, switch to turkey burgers with home baked spuds. Graduate to baked sweet potato fries, then baked yams. Eating protein and fiber also helps supply the brain with amino acids that help stop cravings.

"What it tends to do is give you that feeling of 'Wow, I'm full and satisfied,'" Peeke said.


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