Initially, you thought fat people eat so much food because it gives them pleasure. Well guess what? You were wrong! In fact just the opposite is true.
Dopamine, a substance that makes us feel good, is one of the best-known neural chemicals. Though it is often thought of primarily as a manufactured substance it is actually produced naturally in the body. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that activates dopamine receptors, which makes us feel a sense of euphoria.
Dopamine is often released during sex, when we eat food, if we take drugs, and during other pleasurable experiences. A lack of dopamine has been shows to increase the likelihood of schizophrenia and drug addiction.
Interestingly, dopamine release is also linked to negative stimuli such as pain. This makes experts wonder just how closely pain is related to pleasure, but it also allows us to understand that a seemingly positive experience that turns negative, can still elicit a powerful pleasure sensation.
Pleasure While Eating
Individuals whose brains don’t release much dopamine while eating, will overeat in order to encourage a greater release. A new neuro study finds that this makes them overindulge even more, and consequently boosts their risk of obesity. Those same researchers also disclosed that a gene variation called Taq1A1 is also responsible for weight gain.
A senior scientist at the Oregon Research Institute in Portland, Eric Stice, and some colleagues, recruited 43 women and 33 adolescent girls to find how much activity was in the pleasure centers of their brain’s while serving food.
Each of the subjects was also tested for the Taq1A1 gene allele, which happens to be associated with a smaller quantity of dopamine receptors. The number of dopamine receptors seems to be directly linked to the level of enjoyment of food.
The participants were offered either a chocolate milk shake or a tasteless solution, after which they were each given an MRI.
Based on the findings, which appeared in the Oct. 17 issue of the journal Science, researchers concluded that overweight or obese people do not get more satisfaction from food than slim people do. In fact the exact opposite is true.
It is the reduced level of pleasure they get from eating that makes them overindulge, and while trying to compensate for the reward deficit, they opt for more high-calorie food.
Additionally, the brain study’s results showed that women with low dopamine receptors were more likely to overeat than those with higher levels of these receptors, hoping to get similar satisfaction while eating. Thus, people with the Taq1A1 allele are more predisposed to obesity. “Obese people may have fewer dopamine receptors, so they overeat to compensate for this reward deficit,” Dr. Stice stated.
There’s not much that you or I could do with this information. Basically, those of us who are overweight or who are trying to lose fat, need to remain vigilant about what we put in our mouths. When we have cravings or get the ‘munchies’, we must remember that it could be a lack of dopamine that is causing this, and that we should possibly look for another way to get out pleasure needs met. Sex is a good alternative that comes to mind for me.
Also check out this article about 10 tips to suppress food cravings.