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CBC MARKETPLACE: FOOD » JUNK FOOD ADDICTION
Can we be addicted to junk food?
Broadcast: October 29, 2002 | Reporter: Wendy Mesley; Producer: Greg Sadler; Researchers: Colman Jones, Leonardo Palleja

In Duncan, B.C., a group has gathered for a meeting. Its one of those 12-step meetings - a gathering of people who are hooked. But the substance at the heart of this meeting is one we have all abused. It is a gathering of Food Addicts Anonymous.

Ive been addicted to many substances and its exactly the same," one participant says. "The getting ready to go to the store to get my foodfeels exactly the same as when I was going for other addictive substances in my past.

Addicted or not almost half of Canadian adults are now overweight. Fifteen-percent are considered obese. Only smoking is a bigger health problem. The numbers are growing at an alarming rate.

We all joke about being junk food junkies. But a growing number of scientists say there may be something to that.

Addicted rats


Given a mixture of sucrose and water, Dr Michael Persinger's rats were insatiable

At Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, one researcher says rats may have something to teach us about why we eat the way we do.

For several months, Dr. Michael Persinger fed his rats sucrose water and sugar one week, and then just regular water the next.

It was no surprise rats liked sugar. But who doesn't? Persinger set out to test just how much they would drink. They drank up to 30 per cent of their body weight every day. They ate more too. They were insatiable.

Can you imagine spending 24 hours a day, once every five minutes, sucking on a sucrose bottle? I mean, thats typically what addiction is considered to be, Persinger said.

Compulsive behaviour one sign of addiction. Another comes when you take the desired substance away.

The worst bite I ever received in 30 years of research was with those animals.

Another sign of addiction the rats sleep patterns were disturbed. But how does it relate to people?

"The important aspect of addictive behaviours is that the time between the craving and the reinforcements immediate. Thats why fast foods are so effective.

Persinger adds that based on his experiments and observations, part of the general population could be labelled as junk food junkies.

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RELATED:

CBC Indepth: Obesity

Ads help fuel obesity epidemic: U.S. studies (February 24, 2004)

Canadian schools to go pop-free by September (January 6, 2004)

Medical journal condemns junk food (November 13, 2003)

Ontario wants pop, junk food, out of schools (November 25, 2003)

Alberta school chucks junk food (November 5, 2003)

Marketers target kids with junk food ads: consumers group (November 11, 2003)

Cut calories from sugar: UN report (March 3, 2003)

New food labels indicate 'bad fat' content (December 23, 2002)

Sunny Delight not so delightful: consumer groups (April 30, 2002)

British group wants ban on junk food ads (July 9, 2001)

Junk food boosts teens' risk of heart disease (November 11, 2000)

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Laboratary of Behavioral Neuroscience, Rockefeller University

The Fall 2002 edition of WELL, a newsletter for wellness published by Martin Collis, features several relevant articles, including The Great Diet Debate and Fat Chance : What to do with Generation XXL

Food Addicts Anonymous

Overeaters Anonymous

National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA)

Are You A Carbohydrate Junkie? - by Sharon Howard, R.D., M.S., C.D

The Downside of the Big Mac - by Vanessa Wilkus

Vancouver-based doctor on food addiction

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