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Curb your eating, help your brain fight the Urge to splurge

you ever tried to eat just one potato chip, or just take a bite of chocolate cake? It may seem impossible. A small bite triggers an urge to eat more. Some people feel compelled to keep eating to the point that food is no longer enjoyable. You know that increased resulting weight is harmful to your health. So why do you keep eating when not in your best interest?

Out of control behavior around food can look and feel very similar to an addiction to drugs and other substances. In fact, imaging studies have shown that addictive drugs can hijack the same brain pathways that control eating and pleasurable responses to food. NIH-funded researchers are closely studying the biology of overeating to try to find new ways to help people stop these behaviors out of control.

“There is an addictive element-especially food high in fat, foods with high sugar content that drives many of us to overeat,” says Nora Volkow, director of the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse. She has been studying the role of the brain in drug addiction and obesity for more than 20 years. Volkow and other scientists have found that high-calorie foods, such as addictive drugs, can trigger the brain’s reward system, the release of brain chemicals like dopamine that make you feel great. So it’s natural to want more. In fact, the first human beings who want more helped them survive.

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“Our brains are programmed to respond positively to foods that are high in fat or sugar because these foods helped our ancestors survive in an environment where food was scarce,” says Volkow. “In today’s society, however, highly rewarding foods are everywhere. And the brain reward system of food is now a liability.”

sight, smell, taste, or hear certain signals-food commercials on the radio with the smell of cinnamon buns in a shopping mall, you can make us crave fattening foods when we’re not even hungry. Brain studies show that the key foods can be especially strong in people who are obese or at risk of weight gain. In a study funded by the NIH, the volunteers had a brain response increased to a sip from a milkshake when they were not hungry were more likely to gain weight a year later.

While some areas of the brain that lead us to look for sweets and fatty foods, other regions in the front of the brain can help control our impulses. We can help our brain regions “rational” take control, avoiding tasty temptations and development of healthy habits.

“Each of us should know if there are certain foods that can not stop eating once we start. Avoid having at home. Do not buy or start eating them, because that could trigger binging,” says Volkow .

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Make healthy eating a part of your daily routine by swapping unhealthy habits with healthy ones. Eat fruit instead of cookies for dessert a day, or take a midday snack of crunchy carrots instead of fries. Instead of walking straight to the refrigerator after work, take a walk around the neighborhood. In time, healthy habits can become wired into your brain. It’ll make them without even thinking.

“childhood and teenage years are ideal to develop healthy habits now,” says Volkow. “Healthy eating habits help protect them in future against diseases associated with obesity.”

Courtesy NIH, USA

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