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Fatty Foods, the New Addiction?
Aired July 14, 2003 - 19:25 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: We all know it's hard to pass up a piece of chocolate, cake or juicy hamburger, fries for that matter. But is it possible fat and sugar are physically addictive like cigarettes, alcohol or even illegal drugs?
That question is being raised today on the basis of new studies that suggest foods high in fat and sugar can cause changes in brain chemistry. We asked some folks on the street what they thought about all this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look around, every country, every country wants McDonald's and Burger King. That's how addictive it is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's better to be hooked on burgers than heroin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you can love it enough where you can eat it every day. I don't think it's addictive, though.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Dr. Marc Siegel is part of the teaching faculty at the New York University Medical Center. We wanted to get his take on all this.
Thanks for being with us.
So the headline in a lot of this morning's papers was that high fat foods are as addictive as some drugs. True?
DR. MARC SIEGEL, NYU MEDICAL SCHOOL: Well, I think that high fat foods are addictive but not quite. I think that's going too far as to say they're as addictive as heroin or opiates.
COOPER: Why are they addictive?
SIEGEL: Well, there's two parts of addiction. One is a psychological component. The other is physiologic, whether you have a craving for it.
Now, there were studies that were done at Rockefeller University over the last couple of years that have clearly shown that children that eat fat crave more fat. And that unfortunately, once they start making those choices, they continue with them for later on in years. So that's a very dangerous phenomenon.
COOPER: Now, is that psychological or physical?
SIEGEL: I would label that psychological. Now there are studies coming along in the University of Wisconsin that are going to come out shortly looking at rats. Of course, feeding a rat in a test a crumb of a cheeseburger is not exactly the same thing as you or I eating it.
SIEGEL: But still, I think, we can make certain comparisons. And what we've discovered with rats is that they have a surging of certain chemicals in their brain, opiate-like chemicals that make them crave fats.
COOPER: So in these rats, once they eat, you know, whatever the high fatty food is, chemicals in their brain are released and why does that make it addictive?
SIEGEL: Well, because they're revved up. Like a fast food meal is as much fat and sugar, more than you're supposed to have in an entire day. It's twice as much fat as you are supposed to get in one day.
So the body sees that and says it something must be happening. I must need this energy and it gets very revved up and it wants more fat, it wants more sugar. There's a hormone that's supposed to stop appetite at the end of a meal. That's not happening with this.
COOPER: So you say it is not as addictive as a heroin because it doesn't, what, it doesn't release an opiate?
SIEGEL: Well, it causes an opiate to be released. I don't think it's the same level as heroin. I really don't. I think that that's the next level up. I think it's addictive but I don't think it's the same.
COOPER: But is it possible that high fat food alters your brain chemistry?
SIEGEL: There's no question about it in my mind. I think that's what these studies are showing. It does alter your brain chemistry. And it's bad news because if you get a physiologic craving. You stop eating fat, you're still surging, your heart rate goes up, you get nervous, you're irritable. "I need that fat, I want that fat."
COOPER: Interesting. All right. Well, this study comes out in a couple days. We'll be following closely.
Dr. Marc Siegel, thanks for being with us.
SIEGEL: Thank you.
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