According to a WHO press release from October 2016, thethe global prevalence of obesity more than doubled between 1980 and 2014Being obese in the past year 11% of men and 15% of women (over half a trillion adults).
This number doesn’t just worry about what it means for our bodies to store large amounts of fluids and fats; in addition, obesity it is linked to drug addiction and certain mental disorders.
A fat-focused brain
Let’s do a little experiment. As you read the following list of foods, imagine them in the most vivid and vivid way possible:
- Chocolate doughnuts.
- Cream pasta.
- Pizza with ham and cheese.
- Hamburger full of sauce.
- Refreshment with ice.
- Chocolate smoothie with whipped cream.
Is your mouth watering when you think of these foods? This powerful flavor, the sweetness of an ice cream, the salty taste of fried smoked bacon … Don’t panic, you are in the norm.
And do several studies show that humans, by genetics, we have a preference for fats and sugars. In fact, this preference turned out to be an evolutionary benefit for our ancestors by allowing fat to accumulate in their bodies, ensuring survival at stages when food was scarce.
Times are changing: overeating on fats and sugars
It was no coincidence that these foods had a particularly pleasant taste.: Indicates the presence of these elements. The organoleptic characteristics that precede them: smell, texture, taste … have been a great call to attention for their consumption, as happens today.
However, it is unanimous that the current consumption of sugars and fats is currently excessive compared to the current lifestyle. We are fully aware that an increase in the consumption of these two foods is linked to the dominant sedentary lifestyle. it doesn’t really do our health a favor. And, surprisingly, it is difficult for many people to balance this intake despite its impact on the development of multiple diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, or obesity.
So if in the long term it is so harmful for us to eat fats and sugars … What makes us continue in this line? The answer is in our brain.
The brain’s reward circuit
Also known as the hedonic or pleasure circuit, Involves in motivation and the feeling of pleasure. That consists of:
- The ventral tegmental zone: It forms the central link in the reward circuit, as its neurons connect to many areas of the brain. It effects the release of dopamine.
- The nucleus acumbrens: increases dopamine levels in the brain
- The prefrontal cortex: Directs the planning of cognitively complex behaviors, personality expression, decision-making processes and the adaptation of appropriate social behavior at all times (among many others)
- Pituitary: releases beta-endorphins and oxytocin, which relieve pain, regulate emotions such as love and positive bonding, among other functions.
What elements activate the brain reward circuit? Among others, love, tobacco, cocaine, marijuana, fats and sugars stand out. But let’s focus on the last two.
The psychological explanation of obesity
The process begins with the consumption of foods high in sugar or fat, which stimulates the secretion of oxytocin and dopamine by our brain, which brings about feelings of joy, well-being, pleasure and avoiding l ‘discomfort. Dopamine is naturally involved in functions such as food or sex.
So, after ingesting the donuts we imagined above, our body feels great and the well-known hedonic pleasure occurs, which is a positive reinforcement on the ‘eating donuts’ behavior (which we will do again). But dopamine (neurotransmitter) and oxytocin (hormone) they have a limited lifespan, already their disappearance, there are the opposite feelings of well-being to which we aspire so much, thus passing from anguish to sadness. Admission begins again and the cycle repeats.
The emergence of food addiction
A phenomenon to be taken into account in the functioning of this circuit, is that dopamine and oxytocin always disappear before the match and, moreover, the doses tend to decrease, therefore, if the same level of excitement is desired as at the beginningThe amount or frequency of food intake should be increased as you eventually become dependent.
This process can be seen as linked to the development of obesity, diabetes and newly incorporated into DSMV binge eating disorder.
On the other hand, there is data that the uncontrolled intake of sugars and fats has a higher prevalence in obese people compared to individuals of normal weight, but more particularly in the obese group, it occurs more frequently in people who are depressed and / or anxious.
Do fats and sugars act as a fallback bomb in stressful situations? Research shows that, in fact, times of stress and situations that generate negative feelings lead these individuals to make high intakes of fats and sugars to feel good temporarily, plus then lower the dopamine level they feel. again anxious and guilty of lack. of demonstrated control or ignoring their eating habits.
And would you be able to reduce the consumption of processed sugar and saturated fat in your daily life?
To illustrate the reading audience, I’m sharing a short documentary about what happens to the body when it lives a month without consuming sugar (you can subtitle in Spanish).