This Is Your Brain on Junk Food

There are a range of factors that scientists and food manufacturers use to make food more addictive.

Dynamic contrast. Dynamic contrast refers to a combination of different sensations in the same food. In the words of Witherly, foods with dynamic contrast have:

… an edible shell that goes crunch followed by something soft or creamy and full of taste-active compounds. This rule applies to a variety of our favorite food structures — thecaramelized top of a cremebrulee, a slice of pizza, oran Oreo cookie — the brain finds crunching through something like this very novel and thrilling.

Salivary response. Salivation is part of the experience of eating food, and the more that a food causes you to salivate, the more it will swim throughout your mouth and cover your taste buds. For example, emulsified foods like butter, chocolate, salad dressing, ice cream, and mayonnaise promote a salivary response that helps to lather your taste buds with goodness. This is one reason why many people enjoy foods that have sauces or glazes on them. The result is that foods that promote salivation do a happy little tap dance on your brain and taste better than ones that don’t.

Rapid food meltdown and vanishing caloric density. Foods that rapidly vanish or “melt in your mouth” signal to your brain that you’re not eating as much as you actually are. In other words, these foods literally tell your brain that you’re not full, even though you’re eating a lot of calories.

The result: You tend to overeat.

In his best-selling book Salt Sugar Fat, author Michael Moss describes a conversation with Witherly that explains vanishing caloric density perfectly…

I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,”Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,”Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it … you can just keep eating it forever.”

Sensory specific response. Your brain likes variety. When it comes to food, if you experience the same taste over and over again, then you start to get less pleasure from it. In other words, the sensitivity of that specific sensor will decrease over time. This can happen in just minutes.

Junk foods, however, are designed to avoid this sensory specific response. They provide enough taste to be interesting (your brain doesn’t get tired of eating them), but it’s not so stimulating that your sensory response is dulled. This is why you can swallow an entire bag of potato chips and still be ready to eat another. To your brain, the crunch and sensation of eating Doritos is novel and interesting every time.

Calorie density. Junk foods are designed to convince your brain that it is getting nutrition, but to not fill you up. Receptors in your mouth and stomach tell your brain about the mixture of proteins, fats, carbohydrates in a particular food, and how filling that food is for your body. Junk food provides just enough calories that your brain says, “Yes, this will give you some energy,” but not so many calories that you think, “That’s enough, I’m full.” The result is that you crave the food to begin with, but it takes quite some time to feel full from it.

Memories of past eating experiences. This is where the psychobiology of junk food really works against you. When you eat something tasty (say, a bag of potato chips), your brain registers that feeling. The next time you see that food, smell that food, or even read about that food, your brain starts to trigger the memories and responses that came when you ate it. These memories can actually cause physical responses like salivation and create the “mouth-watering” craving that you get when thinking about your favorite foods.

All of this brings us to the most important question of all.

Food companies are spending millions of dollars to design foods with addictive sensations. What can you and I do about it? Is there any way to counteract the money, the science, and the advertising behind the junk food industry?

How to Kick the Junk Food Habit and Eat Healthy

The good news is that the research shows that the less junk food you eat, the less you crave it. My own experiences have mirrored this. As I’ve slowly begun to eat healthier, I’ve noticed myself wanting pizza and candy and ice cream less and less. Some people refer to this transition period as “gene reprogramming.”

Whatever you want to call it, the lesson is the same: If you can find ways to gradually eat healthier, you’ll start to experience the cravings of junk food less and less. I’ve never claimed to have all the answers (or any, really), but here are three strategies that might help.

1. Use the “outer ring” strategy and the “5 ingredient rule” to buy healthier food.

The best course of action is to avoid buying processed and packaged foods. If you don’t own it, you can’t eat it. Furthermore, if you don’t think about it, you can’t be lured by it.

We’ve talked about the power of junk food to pull you in and how memories of tasty food in the past can cause you to crave more of it in the future. Obviously, you can’t prevent yourself from ever thinking about junk food, but there are ways to reduce your cravings.

First, you can use my “outer ring” strategy to avoid processed and packaged foods at the grocery store. If you limit yourself to purchasing foods that are on the outer ring of the store, then you will generally buy whole foods (fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, etc.). Not everything on the outer ring is healthy, but you will avoid a lot of unhealthy foods.

You can also follow the “5 ingredient rule” when buying foods at the store. If something has more than 5 ingredients in it, don’t buy it. Odds are, it has been designed to fool you into eating more of it. Avoid those products and stick with the more natural options.

2. Eat a variety of foods.

As we covered earlier, the brain craves novelty.

While you may not be able to replicate the crunchy/creamy contrast of an Oreo, you can vary your diet enough to keep things interesting. For example, you could dip a carrot (crunchy) in some hummus (creamy) and get a novel sensation. Similarly, finding ways to add new spices and flavors to your dishes can make eating healthy foods a more desirable experience.

Moral of the story: Eating healthy doesn’t have to be bland. Mix up your foods to get different sensations and you may find it easier than eating the same foods over and over again. (At some point, however, you may have to fall in love with boredom.)

3. Find a better way to deal with your stress.

There’s a reason why many people eat as a way to cope with stress. Stress causes certain regions of the brain to release chemicals (specifically, opiates and neuropeptide Y). These chemicals can trigger mechanisms that are similar to the cravings you get from fat and sugar. In other words, when you get stressed, your brain feels the addictive call of fat and sugar and you’re pulled back to junk food.

We all have stressful situations that arise in our lives. Learning to deal with stress in a different way can help you overcome the addictive pull of junk food. This could includesimple breathing techniques or a short guided meditation. Or something more physical like exercise or making art.

With that said, if you’re looking for a better written and more detailed analysis of the science of junk food, I recommend reading the #1 New York Times best-seller Salt Sugar Fat.

James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares ideas about using behavior science to improve your performance and master your habits. For useful ideas on how to live a healthy life, both mentally and physically, join his free newsletter.

Follow James Clear on Twitter: www.twitter.com/james_clear

From http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/why-we-crave-junk-food_b_4261415.html?ir=Taste&ref=topbar

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Bikinis Make Men See Women as Objects, Brain Scans Confirm

Sexy women in bikinis really do inspire some men to see them as objects, according to a new study of male neurology.

Brain scans revealed that when men are shown pictures of scantily clad women, the region of the brain associated with tool use lights up.

Men were also more likely to associate images of sexualized women with first-person action verbs such as “I push, I grasp, I handle,” said lead researcher Susan Fiske, a psychologist at Princeton University.

And in a “shocking” finding, Fiske noted, some of the men studied showed no activity in the part of the brain that usually responds when a person ponders another’s intentions.

This means that these men see women “as sexually inviting, but they are not thinking about their minds,” Fiske said. “The lack of activation in this social cognition area is really odd, because it hardly ever happens.”

Read more at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/02/090216-bikinis-women-men-objects.html

Muslim Women’s Dress: A Tool of Black Liberation

Pervasive stereotypes of black women have worked to deny them dignity and rights. The “jezebel” image, stereotyping black women as sexually loose, has its roots in slavery to justify the systematic raping of enslaved women. It is in fighting this image that I see long dresses, or the hijab, as tools of liberation.

Autism Research Indirectly Identifies Flu Vaccines as a Cause

tress can send your stomach into a painful tailspin, causing cramps, spasms and grumbling. But trouble in the gut can also affect the brain.

This two-way relationship may be an unlikely key to solving one of medicine’s most pressing — and perplexing — mysteries: autism. Nearly 60 years after the disorder was first identified, the number of cases has surged, and the United Nations estimates that up to 70 million people worldwide fall on the autism spectrum. Yet there is no known cause or cure.

Autism is a complex spectrum of disorders that share three classic features — impaired communication, poor social engagement and repetitive behaviors. On one end of the spectrum are people who are socially awkward but, in many cases, incredibly bright. At the other extreme are individuals with severe mental disabilities and behavioral problems.

Treatment for autism may one day come in the form of a probiotic — live, ’friendly’ bacteria like those found in yogurt.

Among autistic children’s most common health complaints? Gastrointestinal problems. Although estimates vary widely, some studies have concluded that up to 90 percent of autistic children suffer from tummy troubles. According to the CDC, they’re more than 3.5 times more likely to experience chronic diarrhea and constipation than their normally developing peers.

Following these hints, Arizona State University researchers analyzed the gut bacteria in fecal samples obtained from autistic and normally developing children. They found that autistic participants had many fewer types of bacteria, probably making the gut more susceptible to attack from disease-causing pathogens. Other studies have also found striking differences in the types and abundance of gut bacteria in autistic versus healthy patients.

But is the gut microbiome in autistic individuals responsible for the disorder? To find out, Caltech postdoctoral researcher Elaine Hsiao engineered mice based on earlier studies showing that women who get the flu during pregnancy double their risk of giving birth to an autistic child. In the mouse model, pregnant females injected with a mock virus gave birth to pups with autism-like symptoms, such as obsessive grooming, anxiety and aloofness.

The mouse pups went on to develop so-called “leaky gut,” in which molecules produced by the gut bacteria trickle into the bloodstream, possibly reaching the brain — a condition also seen in autistic children.

But how did these bacteria influence behavior? To find out, Hsiao analyzed the mice’s blood. The blood of “autistic” mice contained a whopping 46 times more 4EPS, a molecule produced by gut bacteria, thought to have seeped from their intestines. What’s more, injecting healthy mice with 4EPS made them more anxious. A similar molecule has been detected at elevated levels in autistic patients.

Read more: Autism’s Gut-Brain Connection | Fast forward | OZY

“women who get the flu during pregnancy double their risk of giving birth to an autistic child. In the mouse model, pregnant females injected with a mock virus gave birth to pups with autism-like symptoms, such as obsessive grooming, anxiety and aloofness.”

How is this not a link between flu vaccines and autism?

The Metaphysics of Hip-Hop

Not being aware of music as a primary change agent in the human consciousness, the hip-hop youth naively think they should merely reflect what is happening in their environment.

Quantum scientists have sought the smallest building block or substrate in the Universe for the past hundred or more years.  The latest assessment is almost exactly what the Ancients must have known. It is called string theory which in essence says that the Universe is music. It seems that music may be the energy that organizes matter and perhaps everything else as well.

“The meaning of the word music is far deeper, richer, and more complex than what any single source, especially a dictionary, which deals in the outer layers of surface meanings, could possibly define or describe. If you trace the etymology of music you´ll discover that early in human history it meant “the art of the muses” which covered in Classical Mythology nine of the bases in the performance arts including astronomy (music of the spheres).  Spend some time with thinkers and teachers like Hazrat Inayat Khan (THE MYSTICISM OF SOUND AND MUSIC) and you’ll discover that for millennia enlightened folks have realized that the essence of music is the same as that of life, namely movement”    Source (7-11-03): http://www.microweb.com/ronpell/IotaExchangesContinued.html

The science of cymatics can demonstrate this very dramatically.  It has also been determined that the nearest black hole to our solar system play a B-flat 54 octaves below our hearing range. Manfred Clynes has demonstrated that our emotions are elicited by vibrations and has more specifically identified 20 emotions in music produced by what he calls “sentic forms.”  It is also demonstrable that stones can be levitated with sound and that perhaps this is the secret technology used to build the pyramids and other massive stone structures.

(Acoustic levitation was first experimented with successfully in the 1940s. Now, the use of high-powered sounds is sophisticated enough to suspend objects in the air and move them along as though on an invisible conveyor belt.  “Yoshiki Hashimoto, of Tokyo’s Kaijo corporation, has developed a machine that lifts objects and moves them by acoustic levitation using supersonic waves.   Source (7-11-03): http://www.rense.com/general/soundwaves.htm)

The drum machine was designed to imitate human drummers, however, the machine produces a quantized beat that is mathematically perfect. This makes it a perfect hypnotic trance inducer that allows post-hypnotic suggestions (the content) to become imbedded into the subconscious mind of the listener.

READ MORE HERE

The Shamanic View of Mental Illness

In the shamanic view, mental illness signals “the birth of a healer,” explains Malidoma Patrice Somé.  Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.

What those in the West view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as “good news from the other world.”  The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm.  “Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field,” says Dr. Somé.  These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm.

One of the things Dr. Somé encountered when he first came to the United States in 1980 for graduate study was how this country deals with mental illness.  When a fellow student was sent to a mental institute due to “nervous depression,” Dr. Somé went to visit him.

“I was so shocked.  That was the first time I was brought face to face with what is done here to people exhibiting the same symptoms I’ve seen in my village.”  What struck Dr. Somé was that the attention given to such symptoms was based on pathology, on the idea that the condition is something that needs to stop.  This was in complete opposition to the way his culture views such a situation.  As he looked around the stark ward at the patients, some in straitjackets, some zoned out on medications, others screaming, he observed to himself, “So this is how the healers who are attempting to be born are treated in this culture.  What a loss!  What a loss that a person who is finally being aligned with a power from the other world is just being wasted.”

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Neanderthal Brains Show Fatal Lack of Social Skills

Since Neanderthals used a greater proportion of their brain for basic motion and vision control, they didn’t have as much brain capacity left to innovate. For example, they had smaller parietal lobes, which humans use for navigation and language skills. When the Ice Age rolled around, Neanderthals couldn’t create complex societies or trade networks to overcome resource scarcities, which scientists think ultimately did them in.

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Girls Really Do Mature Quicker than Boys, Scientists Find

Girls’ brains can begin maturing from the age of 10 while some men have to wait until 20 before the same organisational structures take place, Newcastle University scientists have found.

They discovered that as the brain matures it begins to ‘prune’ information that is stored and focus on what is important.  For girls this can happen as early as 10 years old, but for boys it can take until between 15 and 20 for the same.

READ MORE…

Mother’s Exercise May Boost Baby’s Brain

If a woman is physically active during pregnancy, she may boost the development of her unborn child’s brain, according to a heart-tugging new study of expectant mothers and their newborns. The findings bolster a growing scientific consensus that the benefits of exercise can begin to accumulate even before someone is born.

READ MORE…