Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death prompts discussion of food addictions

While working on my Snack Smart Solutions content over the weekend, I found myself writing a sentence about how junk foods are like drugs. It got me thinking about addictive behaviors, which, in the right environment, is something we are all capable of having. While many are in disbelief about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s heroin addiction and death, it has me wondering about other people’s vices.

I see so much in social media about being a “diet coke addict,” “fueled by coffee,” (which is a drug BTW), “carb-lover,” “must have cheese,” and “Chocoholic” to name just a few. We all have something we are “addicted” too, yet we don’t realize the long-term damage it essentially does to our health.

Have you ever wondered why you just can’t put a bag of chips down? It contains chemicals that essentially change our brain’s chemistry. Autolyzed Yeast, you may know this as MSG, is a known and classified neurotoxin. It can excite the neurotransmitters and change the way we ultimately behave (think hyperactivity, ADHD, tantrums, etc.). It can leave us with headaches, brain fogginess and cause forgetfulness. Autolyzed Yeast is found in crackers, chips, salad dressings such as Ranch, French, Italian or in flavored snack foods such as Doritos, Fritos and Cheetos. You will find Autolyzed Yeast in many broths you use to make your soups.

What are some other neurotoxic food chemicals?

  • Food dyes
  • Artificial sugars such as Sucralose, Aspartame
  • BHA and BHT
  • Dipotassium Phosphate
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HPV)
  • Sodium Nitrates and Nitrites
  • Sorbates, Sorbic Acid, (potassium, calcium and sodium sorbate)
  • Polysorbate 80
  • Propyl Glycol

Those are just a few of the 3,000 FDA-approved chemicals allowed into our food supply. Many of them that have not been tested for long-term human consumption and some were not tested at all. And if you don’t believe me that these toxic chemicals are changing our brain chemistry, this recent study from the Lancet stated: “Untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development, and chemicals in existing use and all new chemicals must therefore be tested for developmental neurotoxicity.”

Let’s take a quick look at Diet Coke, Pepsi, Crush, energy drinks and all the pops on the market. While we all know there is nothing good or nutritionally beneficial that comes from drinking these toxic cocktails, it is the combination of how the soda is made along with the artificial sweeteners that changes the way the brain processes these drinks. (Remember Coca Cola originally had cocaine in it). Soda can pull magnesium, zinc and calcium from your bones, essential trace minerals needed for every organ to function. Ever hear of Mountain Dew teeth? Over time, it can wear down the enamel of your teeth causing discoloration and cavities. It often looks like teeth of a “crack addict.” When it gets to the teeth, you know it is bad.

While I enjoy a good cup of coffee each morning, many have found that if they try to cut it cold turkey, they will get a headache or the shakes. This is the same thing many drug addicts experience when they try to stop, too. To stop their body from detoxing they take another hit and you drink another cup of coffee to take the edge off. Too much coffee makes our adrenal glands work harder than they should, causing our bodies excess stress and fatigue. Thus the cycle begins the next time you drink coffee to “stay awake.”

How about sugar? Did you know Americans consume 150 pounds of refined sugar each year, including 25 pounds of dextrose? Dextrose is a derivative of corn found in many “healthy” foods, such as lunch meats, bars, infant formulas and snack nut mixes. Dextrose is just a fancy name for glucose. The name dextrose is a creative marketing ploy to make consumers feel better about eating it since most view glucose in a negative way. We can’t get away from sugar because sugar is in everything we eat and once it hits our taste buds there is an immediate satisfaction that our brains receive.

When we crave sugar, our brains need serotonin to help balance the neurotransmitters. However, 90 percent of our serotonin is produced in our guts. When we give it sugar, it sends feel good feelings to our brains, which gives off the immediate gratification both brains and guts need. It is a short-term fix. Our cravings are an imbalance of neurotransmitters that stems from many things such as lack of sleep/insomnia, poor diets and high sugar diets.

I saw a lot of judgmental comments about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. “How could he be so selfish leaving behind three kids?” “How could he not get the help he needed for his kids’ sake?”

While we all know he tried, but there is something in the brain that keeps calling back the addictive behavior.

So what about you? What food are you so addicted to that you just can’t stop? Try it for a few days. You will get withdrawal effects and you will go a little crazy. Can you do it for a week? A month? Three months? We all have the capabilities to be heroin addicts, we all just choose our own unhealthy, addictive vices.

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