Fatties are just food addicts

Get more pleasure out of each bite you take, pay attention to the quality of your food, and learn that hunger is the best appetizer. Train the dopamine receptors you have and your genes won't get in the way of your jeans.

French Women Never Get Fat, from Amazon.comToday's fun fact is fat people don't really enjoy food.

According to Eric Stice at UT-Austin (Hook 'em, Horns), eating causes the body to release dopamine, which then raises blood pressure so we can digest.

But overeating causes us to lose dopamine receptors, and we eat even more to compensate. Also, some people don't have as many receptors as others.

All this is going into an article in Science, co-authored with the good people at the Oregon Research Institute and Yale University.

In the study subjects were given a taste of chocolate milkshake, then a tasteless solution. Researchers measured the dopamine reaction to each, then followed the subjects over time. Those with less of a reaction had a tendency to becoming overweight.

There are two possible explanations for this:

  1. Obesity is genetic.  
  2. Over-eating is an addiction process, like alcoholism.

It's the old nature-nurture argument all over again. If you see it as your genetic fate you accept the pounds. If you see it as a process you can train yourself to adjust.

Scientists have yet to find a genetic link to alcoholism, and this work with obesity only implies a genetic result. Stice's conclusion is a bit jargon-y, but worth noting:

"Although people with decreased sensitivity of reward circuitry are at increased risk for unhealthy weight gain, identifying changes in behavior or pharmacological options could correct this reward deficit to prevent and treat obesity."

Which brings me to the silly book above. It's not true that French women never get fat. Many do. But author Mireille Guiliano is really offering a French attitude toward food.

That is, only eat the very best. Have one spectacular chocolate truffle and avoid chemical junk. Walk whenever you can, as much as you can. Take on little bits of really great food five or six times each day, instead of sitting down to any big meal.

It seems to fit with what Dr. Stice has found. Get more pleasure out of every bite you take, pay attention to the quality of your food, and learn that hunger is the best appetizer.

Train the dopamine receptors you have and your genes won't get in the way of your jeans.

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