This is the first week of Ramadan (Assalamu alaikum). What better time to reevaluate our perceptions of food than when a large portion of the world’s population is fasting.
As worldwide economics have ameliorated, a counterintuitive trend emerged in human health. The poor have higher rates of obesity than the wealthy. A recent article in Science News outlines the recent research which indicates that Food can be physiologically addictive.
In the article, Christeen Brownlee summarizes the recent research into over-eating’s neurological connection to other substance abuses. Like the brains of Drug addicts, the brains of over-eaters are deficient in dopamine receptors (the this-feels-good brain chemical). Food, like drugs, floods the brain with dopamine. A study author explained that “[t]hese people were compulsively driven to eat as if food were their
stimulus of choice.”
Another experiment that tweezed out the difference between satiety and craving, was conclusive of their independence. Moreover, cravings for food are the result of the same brain function as other addictive behaviors. The difficulty begins when we try to understand why some people become addicted and not others. Evidence suggests that some individuals receive more pleasure from foods than others.
Mormons want to justify their 19th century proscriptions and consequently find many. Chief among such justifications is Addiction and for good reason. While there has been a substantive push against other addictive behaviors, e.g., porn, there is resistance to extend the warnings to other addictions, like over-eating.
From a health perspective, coffee and tea are healthy, whereas obesity is fatal. We are good at drawing lines in the sand; some things require abstinence–ask a heroin addict to limit their injections to once a week. Perhaps the difficulty lay in preaching moderation.