How Certain Carbs can be as Addictive as Drugs

A doctor can evaluate a heroin addict or an alcoholic and realize that the person is in trouble.  What is more difficult is looking at a successful 50-year-old professional who is 50 pounds overweight and recognizing that he, too, is an addict and in deep trouble.  He might not fit the usual picture of an addict, but he certainly is.

What is food addiction?

Like heroin addiction, food addiction will cause significant medical problems that are less obvious than heroin urges, but are just as lethal.  These include high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, higher incidences of certain cancers, etc.

An overweight person who has difficulty shedding pounds is likely engaged in addictive behaviors with certain food.  Perhaps that individual became a food addict because he was genetically or prenatally predisposed or had acquired terrible eating habits growing up.  Often, the cause is rooted in the stresses of life.

Nevertheless, all these paths lead to the same place—food addiction.  Any time you get a craving to buy potato chips, addictive behavior is being exhibited.  Just looking at the chips will stimulate the addictive center of the brain. Unbelievable though it may seem, medicine can now prove this with brain scans.


Dr. David S. Ludwig, the director of the Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, did brain scans in men, giving them the foods and ingredients that I have labeled Addictocarbs (bread, pasta, flour, rice, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, soda).

These scans showed “intense activation in brain regions involved in addictive behavior.”  Even for a doctor familiar with fast-moving medical advances, this is a staggering finding.

The scientific community has accepted that certain foods stimulate the addiction center of the brain

Excellent medical studies done by top researchers at major medical institutions are appearing at an increasing rate, reinforcing and proving what many world-class medical addiction specialists such as Dr. Kenneth Paul Rosenberg have been saying for years.

In his recently published landmark medical textbook, Behavioral Addictions, the chapter on food addiction has 11 full pages of references.  What has become clear is that the scientific community has accepted that certain foods stimulate the addiction center of the brain, and it is these addictive food cravings that promote obesity.

Medicine recently accepted food addiction as a real condition.  In 2014, the American Psychiatric Association finally included food addiction in the fifth edition of its psychiatric bible: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Food addiction is even showing up in features in popular magazines, on TV shows, and in classrooms.  In a 2011 Time magazine article, neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitz asks the question: “Is Haagen-Dazs ice cream as addictive as heroin? Or, put another way, is heroin as addictive as Haagen-Dazs?”

How damaging is Addictocarb food addiction?

Here is the real question:  Is a person who eats things like bread and potatoes, and as a result is 25 pounds overweight, an addict?  To me, the answer is a resounding yes.

As a family doctor, I get to see the havoc that being overweight wreaks on patients’ lives.  I see the toll it takes on families. Every year I see people suffer and even die prematurely because of heart disease, diabetes, or some other malady caused by being overweight.

Alcohol or cocaine abuse is considered an addiction by most because the dire consequences are clear to anyone observing these users’ behaviors.  We witness the physical deterioration of the addict and how the addiction becomes central to their life.

But what about having a few fries or a roll with dinner?  When you consider the staggering prevalence of Addictocarb addiction and the devastating results of that addiction, it is clear that Addictocarbs are up there with heroin, alcohol, and cocaine combined as highly damaging drugs.

I believe that the main cause of obesity and type 2 diabetes is Addictocarbs.  This is supported by FDA data on increases in food consumption that parallel the obesity epidemic.  Just consider that there are about 70 million prediabetics in the U.S. and another 30 million diagnosed diabetics, while total cocaine and heroin addicts measure fewer than 4 million.

In society as a whole, food addiction far outweighs drug and alcohol addiction in its health consequences, and we all pay for this in our taxes, health insurance premiums, and quality of life.

If we cut Addictocarbs from the standard American diet, we would wipe out most obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many cancers, and a whole host of other diseases.  In fact, just cutting out one Addictocarb from our diet would dramatically impact the health of this country.

Overeating and eating many of the wrong foods are symptoms of addiction, and if you don’t accept that fact and treat certain foods as an addiction, you will never be able to stay thin.  Cycling through diets and weight loss, like Oprah Winfrey does, is just like going into substance abuse rehab over and over.

But yo-yo dieting isn’t the only problem.  Even trying to force yourself to go on a prolonged diet with surgical interventions will not work because the problem is not the eating, it is the addiction.  For example, people who have had stomach stapling or gastric sleeves stop their bulk eating, but the addiction continues.  As with any addiction, people find ways around it or even develop alternate addictions, such as cocaine and alcohol.

The problem with stomach surgery is that people are still allowed to eat what they want, just in smaller quantities.  If before your gastric bypass you consumed 100 M&Ms at a sitting, now you can eat 10 per hour for 10 hours without discomfort.  This is not going to work.  It doesn’t work for alcohol or heroin and it won’t work for food.  The only solution is completely giving up the substance being abused.

How to deal with Addictocarb food addiction

The answer to Addictocarb food addiction is substituting healthful, appetizing foods for the Addictocarbs.  The Addictocarb Diet will get you to completely give up the addictive substances by replacing them with palatable, nonaddictive alternatives.

But how can you control your cravings?  It cannot be done long term by going on low-carb, high-protein diets such as the Atkins Diet because people cannot stay on them for very long, not to mention that they are not very good for you.  It cannot be done by fasting.  Diets that want you to fast are popular, but once again, how long can you fast?

Some recent popular diets recommend intermittent fasting.  I suppose this can work, but the cravings will also be intermittent, and that will not work any better than an alcoholic who only drinks on the weekends.

It cannot be done by going on a low-glycemic-index diet such as South Beach. While these kinds of diets are better than Atkins and fasting, they cut down but do not cut out the addictive substances, therefore allowing, and even facilitating, the reemergence of addictive eating.  Also, these diets restrict healthful, nonaddictive foods like fruit that can be of great benefit in a permanent weight loss program like the Addictocarb Diet.

Many diets can help you lose weight, and they all work in the short term, but unless you deal with the issue of addiction, they ultimately fail.  It is critical to treat being overweight just like any other addiction.  You must detox, rehab, and deal with your life as an addict.

The question that comes up is whether all carbs are created equal.  It is the premise of this diet that the Addictocarbs are the worst offenders and “drugs” that must be avoided. But some carbs are good.  Fruits and vegetables are good carbs.

Carbohydrates in general get a bad rap.  Most dieters think that by eating fewer carbs they will lose weight and keep it off.  The real truth is that it is hard to live with carbs, but you certainly cannot live without them.

Carbs perform vital functions.  Some provide the fuel you live on, some are stored by your body to provide energy for later consumption, and others play critical roles in your immune system, fertilization process, blood clotting, and more.

Addictocarbs are carbs that cause addictive behaviors—eating too much or eating the wrong foods.  They cause people to buy certain foods on impulse, or because they smell so good that they are irresistible.  French fries are Addictocarbs. So are bread and rolls and cupcakes.  Pasta and rice are Addictocarbs.  Fruits, while chock full of carbs, are not Addictocarbs

The only weight reduction program that will work is based on a diet that is common sense.  By this, I mean a diet that gets rid of your strongest cravings and yet still allows you to have carbs and enjoy the sensual pleasures of eating.

This is why the Addictocarb diet is sustainable and the only answer for the millions of people who are serious about keeping weight off for life—and not just for a few weeks or months.

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