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Dietitians Dish: You really can't eat just one

By By Elizabeth Sommerfeld
Oct. 22, 2013 at 5:22 a.m.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld

Oreo addiction may really be just that - an addiction. According to a study that was mentioned on the "Today Show," people can really be addicted to these sugary cookies. A team of researchers at the Connecticut College set out to test the theory that high-fat, high-sugar foods can cause our bodies and brains to react much like they do to addictive drugs such as cocaine.

They put rats in a maze with rice cakes and Oreos, and much like many of us humans, the rats spent more time eating the Oreos than they did the rice cakes. Then they did a similar study giving the rats injections of saline or injections of cocaine or morphine. The rats again spent more time on the side of the maze where they received the drugs.

This lead the researchers to believe that the high-fat, high-sugar foods cause the same reaction in our bodies and brain that drugs do.

So does this mean that high-fat, high-sugar foods can do as much damage to us as addictive drugs? Well, yes, it kind of does. If we become addicted to those high-fat, high-sugar foods, then we will tend to eat them more and crave them more, and high-fat, high-sugar equals high-calorie.

When we eat a lot of high-calorie foods and don't use up those extra calories in exercise, then we tend to pack on the pounds. The weight gain in addition to the poor nutritional value of these items leads us to poor health. Eating can be a vicious cycle.

The more high-fat, high-sugar foods we eat, the more we crave, which makes it harder and harder to resist. Plus, these are the types of foods that we typically crave when we're stressed, bored or tired, which again makes it more difficult to ignore. However, you must strengthen those resistance muscles and avoid purchasing those foods in the first place. That is my method of attack; if I don't buy the Oreos, I can't eat them. Consider them like a drug - addicts can't just have one hit or one sip, and neither can I have just one Oreo.

One leads to another and then another. Lay's potato chips has the slogan right: "betcha can't eat just one." They know their food is addicting. They made it that way to sell their product - not to make you healthy.

So, next time a friend or family member says "please, don't bring Oreos (or whatever food item) because I can't control myself," remember this is a reality.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem, and avoid bringing those addictive-type foods.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld is the clinical nutrition manager/bariatric coordinator at DeTar Healthcare System. She is a registered and licensed dietitian and has a Master of Science degree. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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