Dopamine and serotonin induced eating behaviours
A journalist, S Aubrey (Aubrey, 2020) writes about the addictive-ness of processed foods intentionally formulated with a balance of richness, sweetness and saltiness – termed the “bliss point” which stimulates the release of the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) dopamine that controls our behavioural response to sense of reward – to which we become addicted.
As explained by Haynes (2018), dopamine “…gets released when we take a bite of delicious food, when we have sex, after we exercise, and, importantly, when we have successful social interactions. In an evolutionary context, it rewards us for beneficial behaviours and motivates us to repeat them.”
Consider these three different perspectives mentioned in the article:
The dietitian – who explains how the food industry deliberately makes processed food addictive
The professor of chemical engineering – who discounts the bliss point concept and advocates self-responsibility to control eating behaviours
The lady – who feels empowered by understanding the manipulative effect of certain food ingredients and that her food cravings are not her fault alone.
This same brain circuitry leads to gambling addictions and our addiction to social interaction on e-devices (Haynes, 2018).
None of these three perspectives speak of stress as a driver for these unhealthy food choices, or the way stress hormones elevate our blood glucose – with adverse metabolic and neurological effects, depicted in this diagram.
This craving is mediated by the "happy" hormone, serotonin (another brain chemical).
Stress leads to increased blood glucose leads to increased insulin to clear away that glucose leads to tryptophan getting into the brain leads to release of serotonin, that makes us feel calmer – for a while. But when it’s depleted, we’re back to feeling stressed again, and so can develop this dependency on our chosen stimulant to “pep” ourselves up. Without resolving the underlying drivers of this stress response, this pattern of hormonally mediated behaviour can perpetuate a pathway to chronic blood sugar dys-regulation leading to metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, leading potentially to type 2 diabetes.
There is research showing how EMF’s dys-regulate blood glucose control (Havas, 2020). This makes sense because they are an environmental stressor that can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system response with release of adrenal hormones as per top of this diagram. Electrosensitive people are more likely to be affected sooner or more acutely, but thus be motivated to do more to protect themselves from this stress. Non-electrosensitive people may be at greater risk of developing chronic metabolic disease due to their continued, unmitigated exposures to EMFs.
Referring back to the journalistic article, I don’t believe any amount of reading food labels or warning signs about health effects can be effective to deter preferences for processed foods. Current marketing narratives about convenience and cheap take-away foods, food industry standards, government policies, most school canteens and the high levels of stress – that takes many different forms – confound well intended efforts to eat better or advise others how to eat for better health outcomes. This situation is further complicated by awareness of a growing body of evidence of harm induced by electromagnetic stress on our bodies and our metabolic processes.
I was motivated to study nutritional medicine by a doctor who told me it was too hard to change people’s eating habits and pointless to try to do so as a practitioner. It is very hard. But my knowledge has empowered me and my family to eat our way to sustained good health without medication or a whole heap of supplements, and a willingness to consider other environmental factors that impact on our health so we can make wiser choices. Our addiction is to feeling wholesomely well.
Aubrey S, 2020, “Beware the ‘bliss point’”, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 2020
Havas M, 2020, “Extensive biological effects of EMFs and 5G”, interview on 5G Summit 2020. (Magda Havas, Professor Emeritus at Trent School of the Environment and Centre for Health Studies, Peterborough, Canada)
Haynes T, 2018, “Dopamine, Smartphones & You: A battle for your time”, http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/dopamine-smartphones-battle-time/ (Trevor Haynes. Research technician in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School)