Bacon and Sausage Are Addicting? Fat Chance.

Sorry this post was late.  While writing it, I kept stopping to run to the kitchen and fry up more bacon and eggs.  So far I’ve had a pound of bacon and 12 eggs.  And yet … uh-oh … I feel that irresistible urge coming on again.  Excuse me.

Okay, make that a pound-and-a-half of bacon and 15 eggs.  Dang, fatty food is so addicting.  Once you start, it takes real willpower to stop.  That’s why I’m always telling my wife not to buy more than two dozen eggs at a time; at least I know I’ll stop at 24.

If that sounds ridiculous, it’s only because it is ridiculous.  It’s a rare human being who goes bonkers eating protein and fat — unless the protein and fat are spiked with plenty of sugar and starch.  But you wouldn’t know that from reading the media stories this week about yet another badly-designed study:

Fatty foods may cause cocaine-like addiction

Scientists have finally confirmed what the rest of us have suspected for years: Bacon, cheesecake, and other delicious yet fattening foods may be addictive.

A new study in rats suggests that high-fat, high-calorie foods affect the brain in much the same way as cocaine and heroin. When rats consume these foods in great enough quantities, it leads to compulsive eating habits that resemble drug addiction, the study found.

So, it’s the fat that’s addicting, eh? 

Before we get into the science (and lack thereof) in this study, let’s take a moment and think about some real-world examples of binge eating.  I tried to find a list of the top binge-eating foods online and couldn’t, but my Google searches pulled up plenty of confessions by binge-eaters.  I kept seeing the same foods listed:  ice cream, cookies, mashed potatoes, pizza, cereals, chips, french fries, sandwiches of all kinds, and of course, soda.  Here’s one binge-eater’s list for her latest episode:

7 Clif bars, huge bowl of cereal, pb&j sandwich, 1 large fry, 1 medium fry, 1 hamburger, 1 whopper, 1 order of onion rings, 1 starbucks frapp, 1 lean cuisine pizza.

Thank goodness the pizza was Lean Cuisine. 

I used to eat entire large pizzas (not Lean Cuisine) by myself.  I’d buy the “party size” bag of Doritos and finish the bag, despite commanding myself to save at least half of it for another night.  At movie theaters that offered free popcorn refills, I’d go through two large bags during a two-hour movie.  I’ve also eaten huge bowls of ice cream, then gone back for more.  Marlon Brando, a famous binge eater, used to eat ice cream by the gallon.  He once ate so much ice cream so quickly, he froze his esophagus and had to be hospitalized.

Some years ago, my aunt had just finished making a big bowl of mashed potatoes when a friend dropped by.  The friend asked if she could try a spoonful of the mashed potatoes, and my aunt said okay.  As they were talking, the friend kept taking another spoonful … then another … then another … until she’d literally eaten the entire bowl.  She had to know she was doing it, and I’m sure she was embarrassed.  But she couldn’t stop.  Her brain was screaming at her to keep eating.

Now, you could point out that pizza, potato chips, mashed potatoes and ice cream are full of fat, and you’d be right.  But it’s not the fat that enables us to eat huge helpings of those foods without feeling satisfied; it’s the sugar and starch.  As Dr. Mike Eades pointed out in our first interview, if you give the average person a stick of butter and tell him to eat the whole thing, he’ll probably gag long before can finish.  But stir in some powdered sugar to turn that butter into frosting, and suddenly he can eat the whole thing — and ask for more.  That’s exactly what happened in this study:

One of the groups was fed regular rat food. A second was fed bacon, sausage, cheesecake, frosting, and other fattening, high-calorie foods–but only for one hour each day. The third group was allowed to pig out on the unhealthy foods for up to 23 hours a day.

Cheesecake and frosting?  Well, yes, those have some fat in them.  They’re also full of sugar.  I looked up nutrition information for The Cheesecake Factory and found that a single slice of their cherry or raspberry cheesecakes contain 25-30 grams of fat and 100 grams of carbohydrates — that’s the same sugar blast you’d get from drinking a liter of Coca-Cola. 

As for frosting, check out this nutrition label for Betty Crocker chocolate frosting.  Two little ol’ tablespoons give you almost as much sugar as an 8-ounce soda, but only five grams of fat.  If rats pig out on this stuff, I’m supposed to believe it was the fat driving them to eat?

If you’re busy spending grant money to find out if fat is addicting — for rats, anyway — then you should limit at least one group of rats to the bacon and sausage.  But that’s not what the researchers did.  In the full text of the study, they describe the diet:

The cafeteria diet consisted of bacon, sausage, cheesecake, pound cake, frosting and chocolate.

Bacon, cheesecake … same thing. 

I read the whole study, and nowhere did the authors specify which of these “high-fat” foods the rats preferred.  They apparently measured what the rats consumed very carefully, but didn’t bother to report if they ate more bacon or cheesecake.  I think I can guess.  And even if they ate plenty of bacon, their appetites would’ve been ramped up by the cheesecake and frosting.  As it turns out, their appetites were so overpowering, they would eat even if it hurt:

They began to eat compulsively, to the point where they continued to do so in the face of pain. When the researchers applied an electric shock to the rats’ feet in the presence of the food, the rats in the first two groups were frightened away from eating. But the obese rats were not. “Their attention was solely focused on consuming food,” says Kenny.

Well, yeah, Dr. Kenny, that can happen when your blood sugar is taking a roller-coaster ride.  I knew I was going to hate myself after eating that “party-size” bag of Doritos, but I did it anyway.  You could’ve shocked my feet and I would’ve just kicked at you between bites.

The researchers referred to the cafeteria diet as “palatable high-fat diet.”  (You are allowed at this point to picture rats loading up their trays in a cafeteria and then engaging in a food fight.)   In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes explains why “palatable” foods that provoke insulin spikes can make us hungrier even as we eat them:

Since insulin plays the critical role in our post-absorption responses to particular foods, it’s not surprising that insulin may play the critical role in our determination of palatability.  A little-discussed observation in obesity research is that insulin is secreted in waves from the pancreas.  The first wave begins within seconds of eating a “palatable” food, and well before the glucose actually enters the bloodstream.  It lasts for perhaps twenty minutes.  After this first wave ebbs, insulin secretion slowly builds back up into a more measured second wave, which lasts for several hours.  The apparent function of the first insulin wave is to prime the body for what’s coming…

Le Magnen described this first wave of insulin as increasing “the metabolic background of hunger.”  In other words, this wave of insulin shuts down the mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue and stores away blood glucose in preparation for the arrival of still more.  This leaves the circulation relatively depleted of nutrients.  As a result, hunger increases.  And this seems to make the food taste even better…

As long as we respond to the carbohydrates by secreting more insulin, we continue to remove nutrients from our bloodstream in expectation of the arrival of more, so we remain hungry, or at least absent of any feeling of satiation.  It’s not so much that the fat fills us up as that carbohydrates prevent satiety, and so we remain hungry.

That’s how you can end up eating two large bags of popcorn … or a heapin’ helpin’ of cheesecake with a side of sausage.  But I double-dog-dare ya to sit down and eat 24 eggs fried in butter.

The references to a “cocaine-like addiction” come from observations the researchers made as to how all that cafeteria food affected the little rat brains:

Not surprisingly, the rats that gorged themselves on the human food quickly became obese. But their brains also changed. By monitoring implanted brain electrodes, the researchers found that the rats in the third group gradually developed a tolerance to the pleasure the food gave them and had to eat more to experience a high.

In previous studies, rats have exhibited similar brain changes when given unlimited access to cocaine or heroin. And rats have similarly ignored punishment to continue consuming cocaine, the researchers note.

First off, if you read the entire study, you’ll notice that the rats were something the researchers call “knockdown” rats.  There are a few paragraphs of scientific gobbledygook explaining the process, but what it means is that they gave the rats a little poke in the brain with a virus to make them more vulnerable to developing compulsive behaviors.

Secondly, as I noted earlier, they never told us how much cheesecake and frosting the rats consumed — and sugar has already been shown to produce a “cocaine-like addiction.”   (And we’re talking sugar here, not sugar mixed with fat.)

Cocaine makes you feel good by washing your brain with feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.  That’s why Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, treats addicts with serotonin or tryptophan, a precursor for serotonin.  And guess what?  Refined carbohydrates can have the same effect.  Nora Gedgaudas describes the process in one of her blog posts:

Serotonin is manufactured throughout the body and brain (95% actually produced in the gut) from the amino acid L-tryptophan and vitamin B6. Iron, too, is needed for this conversion. It just so happens that L-tryptophan (devoid in grains, by the way) is the single most deficient amino acid in our diets. Faulty digestion in many people and poor hydrochloric acid production also very commonly lead to such amino acid deficiencies. Carbohydrate consumption (sugar and starch) create a temporary surge in serotonin and concentration of tryptophan in the bloodstream and brain–leading to a temporary improvement in mood. All this sounds good until you realize that carbohydrates do nothing to manufacture new serotonin and only serve to deplete it and perpetuate additional carbohydrate cravings over time.

Which means there’s another reason to keep eating sugar even if some guy in a lab coat is shocking your little ol’ feet … your is brain happy, even if your feet aren’t. 

Amazingly, the same news story that blames the addictive behavior on fat contradicts itself a few paragraphs later:

The fact that junk food could provoke this response isn’t entirely surprising, says Dr.Gene-Jack Wang, M.D., the chair of the medical department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Upton, New York. “We make our food very similar to cocaine now,” he says.

Coca leaves have been used since ancient times, he points out, but people learned to purify or alter cocaine to deliver it more efficiently to their brains (by injecting or smoking it, for instance). This made the drug more addictive.

According to Wang, food has evolved in a similar way. “We purify our food,” he says. “Our ancestors ate whole grains, but we’re eating white bread. American Indians ate corn; we eat corn syrup.”

White bread?  Corn syrup?  Does the writer consider those high-fat foods?  Were the rats fed purified bacon?  Add it all up, and I’d say we’re looking at some brain-altered rats going sugar-crazy.  The “high-fat” part of the equation had nothing to do with it.  It’s a bad study, badly reported.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there are still six more eggs left in the refrigerator.  (It’s a “refriga-lator” according to my four-year-old.  I’d better get more fat into that kid’s brain.)


36 thoughts on “Bacon and Sausage Are Addicting? Fat Chance.

  1. Gazelle

    As a recovering binge eater, and former low-carb, paleo, GCBC-thumping believer, I have to tell you that it’s very possible to have an addictive response to fat and to eat it compulsively. It’s just as painful and self-destructive to binge on pounds of nuts and cheese and cream, etc. as it is to polish off an entire pizza by yourself.

    Butter? Yeah, I’ve done it.

    I believe it’s dopamine as much as it is serotonin. Junk food gives you a big hit, but so does low-carb paleo high fat food (maybe just not as effectively, which means you might binge on twice as much!)

    Protein without fat, however, does seem impossible to overeat. I don’t think I could manage more than one can of tuna fish… a day.

    Also, poor Marlon Brando!

    It’s possible, but rare. I can eat a lot of nuts, but they’re a mix of protein, carbs and fat. I’ve never tried to eat a stick of butter; mostly because after a few bites, I don’t want any more.

  2. Laurie

    Somewhere in Taubes’s GCBC he mentions a feeding study where they tried to get subjects to consume an extra 1000 cals/day of pure fat. They COULD NOT do it. Then they fed them pure carbohydrate. The subjects couldn’t get full, ate up to 10,000 cals/day and were STILL hungry in the evening. I will find this quote for you but at the moment my copy of GCBC with the copious end notes to myself is loaned out.

    Starts on p. 310:

    … it seemed impossible to to fatten up their subjects on high-fat, high-protein diets … the volunteers would sit staring at “plates of pork chops a mile high” and they would refuse to eat enough of this meat to constitute the excess thousand calories a day that the Vermont investigators were asking of them … Those fattening upon both carbohydrates and fat, on the other hand, easily added two thousand calories. Indeed, subjects in some of his studies, Sims and his colleagues reported, experienced hunger late in the day while taking much greater caloric excesses of a mixed diet — as much as 10,000 calories per day … It would seem that there is something about carbohydrates that allows the consumption of such enormous quantities of food and yet still induces hunger as the night approaches.

  3. Holly

    My boyfriend and I were talking about this last weekend. I was writing an informative speech for my communications class. It was about the science of body fat. I did not have time to fit this into my speech… (maybe I’ll use it for my persuasive speech) but you always hear dieters say “I just can’t help myself around (insert food here); I always overindulge!” You always hear doughnuts, candy, chips, cake, cookies, pizza, and other really sugary foods. I don’t think I’ve ever once heard anyone say bacon, sausage, steak, eggs, veal, fish, chicken, turkey, or even vegetables.

    Conventionally, women aren’t supposed to be big eaters – but in the past I’ve thrown down a whole pizza on my own. I did the same thing you’ve done with the chips (Doritos as well). I’ve never overstuffed myself on bacon though…

    When my wife cooks up a couple of big steaks, we usually end up saving some for leftovers. But I’ve never had to store leftover popcorn.

  4. Debbie

    Yeah, I do love how things like bacon and cheesecake are equated as equals. That said, however, I bet I could polish off quite a bit of bacon. 🙂 It’s the fat/sugar combo I find the most irresistible though. Yes I doubt I could ever sit down and happily polish off a stick of butter. But if you gave me a plain cup of powdered sugar to eat I couldn’t eat much of that either! But mash that powdered sugar into the butter and I could have eaten a lot of that in the bad old days.

    Interesting article about the nitrites. But Sandy’s junkfoodscience blog still depresses the hell out of me, since her overriding general message seems to be “dieting is useless. It’s impossible to lose weight. Anyone who does lose some weight will inevitably gain it all back and then some even if they continue to follow their diet religiously. Dieting makes your health worse, and your mortality outcome worse than just staying fat. Magic macronutrient ratios (like cutting carbs, cutting fat, etc) are just useless hocus-pocus, and the foods you eat have no bearing on the diseases you get or try to control”.

    In fact it really seems to be pretty much a fat acceptance/eat anything acceptance site – although Sandy herself looks trim in her photo.

    Sugar and/or starch combined with fat seems to be the most irresistible combination of all, although I’m amazed at how much soda some people can put away.

  5. Ed Terry

    If these scientists (using the term very loosely) ever saw my shopping cart at Costco (15 dozen eggs, a full box of half-and-half, cheese, beef, pork chops, bacon, and salmon), they could scream “see, we were right!”

    They wouldn’t see any low-fat food however. Any they wouldn’t believe me when I tell them I have to eat all this every month or I’ll lose too much weight.

    What really amazes me about the article is not that scientists are that ignorant about nutrition. It’s the editors of a prestigous magazine not seeing how flawed the study was.

    Lastly, when someone points out that something is healthy because it’s non-fat, I remind them that’s also true for a 5-lb bag of sugar. Most of them don’t get that remark. They just stand there puzzled.

    I’m afraid the editors probably share the same anti-fat bias as the researchers.

  6. James

    I’ve eaten a dozeneggs in one sitting. scrambled with butter. it’s not because of an addiction either, but because I’m bulking up/working out. Honestly, after 6-8 I’m sick of eggs. But I agree, give me a chocolate cake with lots of frosting? I’ll eat the whole thing. Sugar is the problem. not fat or protein.

    I think my record for eggs is six. I’m no Cool Hand Luke, I guess.

  7. Amy Dungan

    Wow… gotta love junk science. I hadn’t seen this study yet. Thanks for digging to find the details. This reminds me of a study done a year or so back where they determined that low-carb diets made rats depressed. Other than the fact that they again incorrectly used the low-carb diet in the study, I’d like to know how they knew the rats were sad. Did the rats just sit around all day eating Doritos and watching soaps? Did they have a little rat therapist in there analyzing them and asking them how they feel? Did the rats go through mountains of tiny rat-sized kleenex?

    The last time I had a binge, it was pizza and ice cream. Sugar and starches will set me off faster than gasoline on a fire. If I’m addicted to my bacon, it’s because I’m addicted to the health benefits I’m getting from the bacon. (Well, ok, I’ll admit I really like the taste too, but I can only eat a few slices before I’m full.) As you mentioned, if it were really the fat, we’d all be gorging on butter.

    I like to think the rats that ate the low-carb, high-fat diet became so intelligent, they decided to stop playing with little wheels and other rat toys. They were probably quietly contemplating the meaning of life.

  8. jon w

    my record for eggs is 14 duck eggs, washed down with a bit of beer. last night I had a head of cabbage fried in a stick and a half of butter, but it took a while to finish. my favorite dessert is half coconut oil, half creme fraiche and a few cranberries or blueberries, all whipped up with some cocoa powder. all these were so good I ate till it hurt

    all that leads me to a couple observations:
    fat is very delicious, but almost never palatable alone.
    with any accompaniment to make it taste good, even very low carb, I will eat till it hurts.

    however, unlike stuffing myself with ice cream or chips, a good bellyfull of the low-carb fatty meals will keep me satiated for many hours. full means full, and it ends up being less calories than ice cream and fries.

    That’s an important point. Even when I eat large amounts of fat and protein, I never do it again later in the day. And even a cheese pigout for me doesn’t come close to the caloric load I could put away when I went nuts on popcorn, pizza, or chips.

  9. Katie

    I see your “study” (thank you for destroying it, it’s been getting way too much media attention this week) and raise you this:

    So now apparently it’s good for mice to eat oh-so-addictive fat in the mornings?? At least in this case they actually tested carbs vs. fat instead of combining the two and proclaiming fatty foods are addictive! I still don’t really buy into mice studies when it comes to nutrition, but it’s interesting and definitely something I’ll send around to my cereal, bage, and muffin-loving friends.

    In my personal experience, I could down massive quantities of things with high fat and high carb (like the aformentioned cheesecake), but the only thing that’s almost pure fat that I can overindulge in is heavy cream. But, then again, I always put it over berries, which provide the sweet.

    If I’m hungry, I can put away fairly large amounts of cheese. But even then, I hit a stopping point; nothing like the equivalent of two large bags of popcorn with butter topping.

  10. Dave B.

    I saw that article, sadly it was posted very prominently on the RefDesk website homepage. I just don’t understand why they put fat and sugar in the same category. Oh wait, yes I do. STUPEFYING IGNORANCE. I shouldn’t blame them though. They’re just regurgitating what they’re told. I was one of them once. Becoming “not one of them” takes looking into things on your own, not something most people are willing to do. I’m sure glad the internet is here to make it so easy to get information. Even though I’ve always thought that I’d like to live more away from civilization, don’t take me internet.

    How’s that for stream of consciousness?

    I’m not sure if it’s ignorance or bending the research to fit an agenda. Either way, it’s bad science.

  11. Kristin

    Hi Tom! I’ve been reading for a while! I love your blog. I’m so glad to see you feeding your daughters such a healthy diet.

    This study is so frustrating to hear about. I have finally gotten my husband to the point where he is starting to really understand how beneficial fat is to your appetite and health and then stuff like this comes out!! It is enough to make a woman pull her hair out!

    Keep up the good work!

    I hear you. I guess I’m lucky I have so little hair to tear out.

  12. Susan

    I had the same reaction you did when I saw this crappy ass study reported on television.

    Just the other day, I was grocery shopping. The obese woman in front of me had several varieties of low fat crackers, soy patties and sausages, and of course tofu.

    I threw a five pound beef roast and a dozen eggs up on the conveyor belt behind her and just sighed. I’ve kept off about 30 pounds for several years now, I might add.

    I see the same thing at the grocery store. Breaks my heart, because people are honestly trying to do what they believe is the right thing.

  13. Sue

    What is so crazy about being carb crazy is the mental games a person will go through BEFORE they even take that first bite! The guilt and self-loathing starts as you are contemplating the event, before even going to the store to buy the coveted “prize”! Late at night, on my way home from work, I knew I was going to stop at the store and p/u some – Fig Newtons. I knew on the drive there that I was lying to myself about only eating a few. I knew deep in my gut that I was going to eat at least one and a-half rows before getting sick to my stomach and that, to get rid of the evidence before I got home to my husband, I would finish of the second row then stop and get rid of the wrapper! The guilt would cling for days. I was so sure that there was something wrong with my brain, and I was right!

    I am now a year free from that misery after going low-carb; and hopefully my wonderful husband will soon be free from the strangle hold of diet sodas and artificially sweetened Popsicles (nasty things!). He eats at least one 24 ct box a night!

    I am over a year free from that destructive behavior.

    I remember those mental games. Lots of bargaining … okay, I’ll eat this whole pizza tonight, but I’ll live on three cans of Slim Fast tomorrow. That never worked out so well.

  14. Linda J.

    Thanks, Tom, for writing about this “study.” After I read about it yesterday, I was so mad I was sputtering the rest of the day.

    My thoughts were the same as yours? Bacon and sausage addicting? I don’t think so. After my fried eggs and bacon breakfast, I’m good for hours – often making lunch so late it interferes with a set dinner time. But if I indulge in cookies or maybe fudge, I can’t stop going back to sneak just one more – or two or three or a half dozen. And my willpower with chips is zilch.

    I am so angry that this nonsense passes as science. It hurts our nation’s health. And it makes people who learn I eat a low-carb, high-fat diet think I’m crazy – although strangely a lot slimmer than I used to be.

    Keep fighting the good fight.

    I’m with you on the anger. People see this nonsense online or in the newspaper, then cite it like it’s gospel.

  15. Laurie

    I don’t like to be revealing and I’m not all that big a fan of anecdotes, but if this can help some reader somewhere EVER, here goes. Before Taubes, before Fat Head, before my new low-carb, no-wheat way of eating, I used to be afraid I was going to starve, physically starve to death. And the thing is, I have never in my life been close to not having enough food or not having enough money to purchase food or to have it purchased for me; not as a child and not as an adult.
    Now I think when I used to eat high-carb, whole wheat ‘food’, my cells were literally starving and my brain cells in particular weren’t getting enough brain-maintaining, brain-enhancing, brain-remodeling, brain-fueling saturated healthy animal fat. All that manna fat was being REPLACED in my diet with addicting grains. Some pregnant women get weird cravings for laundry detergent or dirt. It’s rare, but their bodies and brains and their fetus’s are sending them some kind of message!
    I know about low-fat, high-grain diets being horrible for me now, and I’m grateful I finally know because late really is better than never, but it makes me annoyed when I mention that ‘wheat is murder’ to someone I think might understand and instead I get them defending bread back at me. I give up on them at that point, but I think back to my health problems associated with demon wheat and what it used to do to me, and it just makes me sad for them.

    That reminds me, I want to get some WHEAT IS MURDER t-shirts made. Glad you’re no longer feeling starved.

  16. Walter Norris

    I think the reason people can drink so much soda is that the amazing amount of sugar is there to hide the amazing amount of salt in the soda which then dehydrates the drinker causing more drinking. Kinda like the bar providing free salted peanuts with the beer.

    I’m sure they’ve got it down to a science.

  17. Melissa

    I can’t believe scientists actually present this as a fatty diet without considering the sugar.
    Oh wait, yes I can. It’s amazing what grants and money from sponsers can do to adjust the outline of your experiment!
    Biased to say the least.

    And there’s plenty more where that came from.

  18. Sarah

    Now that I think of it, sugar and carb addiction make a lot more sense than fat addiction does. Remember when I had that, 600 cal low carb six dollar carls jr burger? That ended up being breakfast AND lunch for me, and after eating some fresh produce, my total calorie intake that day was under 1000. I was really amazed.

    Now take ANY day where I eat a serving of something carby. Bread, candy, pasta… I may not feel real physical hunger per say, but it’s very strong MENTAL hunger, extremely strong and persistent cravings to eat more, and I never wanna stop. It’s actually really agitating, too. After a breakfast of protein and fat, I feel more at peace. Eat a granola bar for breakfast and it BUGS me NOT to eat. And up until this point I just thought it was some medical problem-like, chemical or emotional IMBALANCE in my brain telling me to eat when I wasn’t hungry, without giving carbs a second thought.

    Comparatively, using protein (and fat) as my primary fuel sources keeps me way more stable in the head.

    By the way, I wondered if you had any research or posts regarding your stance on dairy consumption? One of the strongest stances in my opinion of the low-carb movement is the fact we (we meaning the human species) haven’t been eating grains for that long. But we probably haven’t been eating cow’s milk for very long either, have we?

    No, we haven’t been consuming dairy products for long and dairy certainly doesn’t qualify as a paleo food. Most people of northern European heritage have the gene for milk tolerance, however. For those who don’t, best to stay away from dairy.

  19. Max

    I really detest how so-called ‘addiction’ studies are presented and reported. Look up addiction in the DSM IV. It’s not there, the best you will find is a wishy-washy definition under dependence.
    There’s a very good reason addiction isn’t present, because the smartest minds on the planet can’t find a definition of addiction that fits all addictive bahaviours.
    Perhaps the story would have gotten less press if the headline read: “Fatty foods may cause addiction, or not… no-one really knows what addiction is… it’s all just guesswork really.”

    It’s certainly a fuzzy area. As I wrote in a post many months ago, I once thought I had an alcohol addiction, but it turns out my starchy diet had me craving quick-burnng fuel. Once I gave up the carbs, the urge to put away 10 or 12 beers in a night disappeared.

  20. Francis

    The exception, for me at least, is dairy. Despite these being almost entirely carb-free, I can eat astronomical quantities of cheese or whipped cream. Pretty sure I once ate a whole 1 kg brie wheel in one sitting. I can even picture eating an entire 2.2 kg mozzarella brick from Costco without feeling sick.

    This is probably a good sign that I should stay away from cheese isn’t it?

    Julia Ross writes in The Diet Cure that we tend to overindulge in foods to which we’re mildly allergic. Sounds strange, but apparently the body sends out soothing chemicals in response to the allergic reaction, and we become addicted to those chemicals. So I’d say it’s possible that you’re actually sensitive to dairy.

  21. Byron

    I´ve always eaten a lot. But real binges are always a sign for carbs or neuropeptides like casein which can be addictive to sensitive people. In my glourious SAD past I had attacks with “healthy” low fat stuff like whole grain bread, fruits of all kind, potatoes every style, rice, oats aso. All measured by the kilo!
    LC times starts with binges in butter/cheese (casein), nuts (carbs).
    But now with ghee and almost keto everything´s fine. Now huge amounts of food means just a cavemans hunger. And I can stop. Freely. And eat not until next day.
    Love your fine humor. Happy easter with tons of eggs!

    I’ve never had a butter binge, but I know some people can go crazy on cheese. I can’t, unless it’s on a crust.

  22. ethyl d

    I love, love, love bacon, so for my birthday this year, I decided to fry a whole pound of bacon and let myself eat all of it if I wanted to. I think I managed about eight strips, but then I just couldn’t eat any more.

    A friend subscribes to a popular cooking magazine, and I was excited when I saw on the cover of its most recent issue “Bacon: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Any More.” I thought, wow, this is going to have some great recipes I will want to borrow. But what do I find when I turn to the article? Bacon-potato waffles, fried rice with bacon, bacon scones, bacon baklava, chocolate-covered bacon (I’m not making these last two up, I swear), and finally, bacon-blue cheese appetizer, which is just the really lame idea to add some crumbled bacon to a bleu cheese wedge, drizzle it with honey, and serve it with … you know what’s coming … crackers. Six bacon recipes, and every one of them wasting glorious bacon on a bunch of carbage. And of course the magazine includes recipes low in fat for those concerned about eating “healthy.”

    When researchers do studies like this, where they mix fats with carbs and conclude it’s the fats doing the damage, it tells you they already “knew” what answer they were going to find before they even started. They can’t even imagine the possibliity it might be the sugars and starches in the foods.

    I think that’s exactly what happened; they designed the study with the conclusion already determined.

  23. jake3_14

    Will somebody please post a link to this page in the CNN comments? For some reason, I can’t complete the CNN member signup process, or I would.

  24. jake3_14

    Julia Ross’ recovery program requires lifelong supplementation of a combination of amino acids. While this method of treatment is scientifically sound, I think it’s expensive and usually unnecessary for those following a LC WOE (Ross’ plan includes a fair amount of fruit, which many LC’ers find triggers a hyperinsulemic response).

    She actually includes instructions for when to stop. Example:

    “Stop after you’ve finished each bottle of 5-HTP, tryptophan, or Saint John’s wort to see if your low-serotonin symptoms come back. If not, you do not need to take any more of the supplements. Your serotonin buildup may be complete for now, but keep your supplements around for the occasional low day, especially in winter.”

    She is also, of course, a big fan of getting your amino acids through proper diet. The supplements are intended to overcome deficiencies from years of bad diets.

  25. Crusader

    The most evil food ever created has to be those hot, ooey-gooey Cinnabon rolls. You know what I’m talkin’ about. If I get near one, I’ll inhale it! So keep them well away. Normal Cinnamon rolls don’t do much for me.

    There was a Cinnabon right next the Starbucks in a building where I used to work. Boy, they had some long lines in the morning.

  26. Crusader


    I really detest how so-called ‘addiction’ studies are presented and reported. Look up addiction in the DSM IV. It’s not there, the best you will find is a wishy-washy definition under dependence.

    I think we all have an “breathing addiction”.

  27. Dan

    Like the old Lays potato chip ads said, nobody can eat just one. If I get started on chips, I can’t stop. However, with pork rinds, I can eat a few and be satisified.

    The same goes for frosting. Used to be that when there was cake, I’d try to get a big honkin’ corner piece with plenty of icing and scrape extra icing off the serving platter. After eating all that, I’d still want more.

    These people are only confirming their anti-fat bias and just can’t conceive of the possibility that it may the carbs that are addicting.

    I guess that could be a selling point for a lot of carb-heavy foods: “Try it … you’ll be addicted in no time!”

  28. kris

    I find this is so fascinating Tom. Also very surprised to hear that Brando was a binger. I am ashamed to say I can relate and it always made me feel like such a freak. I can stay on a low carb diet, feel great and have trouble eating even 1100 calories. if I eat a piece of bread or a desert, it may or may not trigger the cravings, and when that happens, the appetite becomes insatiable. It does seem similar to a drug addiction. I also have a similar issue with alcohol, although I always thought it was the alcohol that would trigger the carb craving and appetite. Now that I am carb free for the most part, alcohol has lost a lot of its appeal.

    It sounds like you admitted to having been a carb binger so I have to ask, do you ever give in? All you low carb gurus seem so perfect. ☺

    Now that my body is trained to rely on fat instead of glucose for its primary source of fuel, most of the foods that I could previously put away in mass quanities have lost their appeal. Perhaps once every three or four months I’ll go out for pizza, and I’m still capable of eating a lot of it when I do … but not an entire large pizza.

  29. Terry O'Carroll

    “Refriga-lator” is correct. You keep the food cold so you can eat it later. Duh! 🙂

    I knew my girl was smart. Thanks for clarifying.

  30. Stephanie

    I want one of those WHEAT IS MURDER T-Shirts. I’ll buy one as soon as you make them!

    This study was in my local paper. It made me so angry to read it that I started composing my email to the Editor in my head. The sad part is that I never bothered to write the email because I just gave up – I thought – no one will care, it’s too hard to fight this fight against the conventional wisdom and establishment. After almost 2 years of being converted to low-carb/anti-processed foods, I just feel too discouraged to tell people about it anymore – even when I get compliments on my weight loss and questions on how I did it, I just reply that I cut out sugar, because it seems to be the only acceptable response without people thinking I’m a kook. But wearing a Wheat is Murder t-shirt will make me feel like I’m getting my point across at least a little bit, even if people don’t get it.

    I should get some of those printed up. Yes, it’s true, if you tell people you’ve cut out sugar, they applaud. Tell them you’ve given up bread, and they think you’re a weirdo.

  31. Gwen

    After some neck surgery, I suddenly found myself Type II diabetic. Well, that’s not precisely the case…I went on a weekend trip and had just finished off a half a package of Klondike Bars, was ragingly thirsty, and nothing would slake it for the rest of the weekend. I knew something was wrong. Yep, I had crossed a line somewhere, and my blood sugar was out of control.

    So my doc sent me to the diabetic indoctrination gulag — the nutrition class at the local hospital — where they spent a week scaring the bejeebers out of me about fat, carbs, and cholesterol. Gotta get ’em down, your heart, your pancreas, your kidneys, omg, OMG, zOMG! And it wasn’t just too much sweet stuff making your blood sugar go nuts, it was fat and cholesterol, too — the heart disease would jump you in an alley, steal your wallet, rape your sister, shave your ferret, erase your hard disk, and scrawl things on your car hood with a key. Your kidneys would crawl up your throat and drag the dialysis machine back down after them. Then, after all your toes EXPLODED, you’d have a heart attack. This is a bit of hyperbole, but it was the kind of scare tactics — and a lot of it was directed at fat and cholesterol, not just controlling carbs.

    So on the low-fat diet you go. Fake eggs, plastic food, no fat…but they don’t warn you about HFCS, because “fructose is good for diabetics”. After all, it doesn’t make your blood glucose go up. (arrrgh). After a year and a half of this, my cardiologist is ready to strangle me because my lipids are off the chart. They used to be excellent, now they’re awful! He wants me on statins, but lucky me, I’m allergic to them. *neener* So he wants me to use Dean Ornish’s “Reversing heart disease” diet.

    I read the thing. I growl. I scream. I throw the book across the room. Then I hit Google and do my homework. I throw out the pourable egg white crap. I buy real eggs. I get BACON. I get rid of the Smart Balance and get BUTTER. I start eating real meat again. I tell my doctors they can pound sand, and not to bug me about my cholesterol numbers anymore. I quit all sugary drinks, I drink club soda now. Just got Sally Fallon’s cookbook, found it when I found Fat Head on Amazon.

    Quitting the sweet stuff is evil hard. I’ve given up a LOT of it, and it no longer tastes as good, and I don’t feel good when I eat it. But the craving is still there, and it’s definitely an addiction. I’m not addicted to bacon, though I love it. But if I get the chocolate crunch cakes from Dominos (once in a blue moon), if I only eat one of them, the compelling urge to eat the other in the box is almost more than I can stand. It’s clearly a drug reaction, pushing me to eat more sugar, even though I can tell it’s not good for me. And I still order them, knowing they’re not. Eventually, I’ll manage to stop.

    Stick with it. At least you have the knowledge. You can get some good tips on overcoming the sugar cravings by reading The Mood Cure, by Julia Ross.


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