Researchers claim that the consumption of certain fast-food menu items releases dopamine “good feeling” hormones and that overeating of these foods are found to be “just as addictive as street drugs”.
Paul Kenny, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla., said, “Most people who are overweight would say, ‘I would like to control my weight and my eating,’ but they find it very hard to control their feeding behavior,” in an article in Scientific American titled Addicted to Fat: Overeating May Alter the Brain as Much as Hard Drugs.
Some in the field now believe that this could possibly be the making of a food addiction. “(D)opamine must be felt,” author Katherine Harmon says in her article, “and for that, the brain must have ample dopamine receptors. In many substance abusers a low level of dopamine receptors, either from the outset or caused by the behavior, means they increasingly have to seek more dopamine-inducing substances to reach a level of neurochemical reward they can enjoy.”
According to an article in ScienceDaily in a survey of 2,366 children between the ages of 2 and 12 years, 25% were overweight and obese and 19% said that they frequently felt feel unhappy. In a Taiwanese study from 2001, researchers found that children who ate fast food and drank soda were less likely to report being unhappy.
“Our findings suggest that consumption of fast food and soft drinks can result in a trade-off between children’s objective (i.e. obesity) and subjective (i.e. unhappiness) well-being,” the study concluded.
Researchers in the study suggest that policy makers “aim to improve children’s overall health should take these effects on children’s objective and subjective well-being into account to facilitate the reduction in childhood obesity without sacrificing children’s degree of happiness”.