The New York Times “Well” section has some excellent summaries about current health research. They may be informative to health care professionals, but also provide, I think, information that can be accessible to patients, too. An article published on 1-23-14 describes interesting research about what makes high calorie foods so “addictive,” and it turns out that it is the sugar more than the fat.
The article includes,
“We do a lot of work on the prevention of obesity, and what is really clear not only from this study but from the broader literature over all is that the more sugar you eat, the more you want to consume it,” said Dr. Stice, a senior research scientist at the Oregon Research Institute. “As far as the ability to engage brain reward regions and drive compulsive intake, sugar seems to be doing a much better job than fat.”
Heavily processed foods loaded with fat and sugar activate and potentially alter the same reward regions in the brain that are hijacked by alcohol and drugs of abuse. Though the extent to which these foods can provoke addictive behavior remains controversial, the results may help explain why millions of people who diet and struggle to lose weight ultimately fail.
“If you look at our American diet, most people are consuming considerably more sugar than fat,” he said. “We’ve really ramped up the sugar in our diets, but we’ve backed off on fat.”
What does this mean for health care professionals working with people trying to loose weight? Obviously, we need to attend to how much sugar our patients are consuming, not just to the fat content of their intake. (This is not a radical concept, but may be a matter of degree, with an incentive to pay MORE attention to sugar intake than we have in the past).
The full article is available online.