The Science Behind Food Addiction with Dr. David Perlmutter

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Why is it that we so often turn to unhealthy food for comfort, even when deep down we know that food is contributing to this discomfort? The answers may surprise you. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen is joined again by Dr. David Perlmutter for a discussion on the food industry, specifically how it genetically engineers foods to act on certain areas of your brain, making it harder to resist.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information visit Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Okay. Welcome back. I am here with Dr. David Perlmutter. We're talking about food and the brain. In the last podcast we just started talking about some of the addictive nature of food. Who knew when Lay's potato chips came out with the slogan, "Bet you can't eat just one," that they weren't lying, that food is actually engineered to get stomach share. There's this thing called shelf share or ... Now it's stomach share that that's what food companies are after. So continue with your thought on the opioid epidemic [crosstalk 00:01:36].
Dr. David Perlmutter: Well, where we were, we were looking at the wheat protein called gluteomorphin and casomorphin. That is a product of consumption of dairy products from cows. And just the notion that we are consuming now these morphine-like substances that are constantly bombarding those receptors in our brains. When we don't have them, we still need to satisfy those receptors, because they're calling out. They're like the little baby birds in the nest that just keep their mouths open until Mom drops a worm in their throat. And that's what the receptors look like. And when we stopped stimulating, they want more.
I'm gonna take you a little bit further if I may, that many of our activities that are not necessarily food-based, stimulate from an area of the brain called the VTA, the ventral tegmental area, dopamine, the neurotransmitter to the nucleus accumbens then causes our bodies to create these endogenous morphine-like chemicals that stimulate morphine receptors in the brain, not even food related. This dopamine surge we can get from gambling, from online shopping, from being obsessed with the number of likes that our selfies get, any of these forms of activities that ultimately can be looked upon as addictive creates a situation where we are further stimulating our brains with these opiate-like chemicals.
So we look at that in the context of the so-called opiate epidemic and the number of deaths related to opiate exposure these days. So I think it's both supply and demand. I think, yes, it's a supply issue, but we've gotta understand that the demand is being cultivated and manipulated by the very people who want you to eat that Lay's potato chip or who offer you up online gambling or pornography or whatever it is that you may be drawn to and cannot satisfy. And it's often that these things are offered up as a way of achieving happiness, and they do everything but. I mean, happiness is connection to the decision part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex.
Empathy, happiness, compassion, forward thinking, understanding the consequences of your actions, executive function, making the right decisions. You wrote in your book, your recent book, about why is it when you go to the restaurant, what do they serve you first? White bread and alcohol, page 222 in Feel Better Fast. Got it right here matter of fact.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Thank you so much.
Dr. David Perlmutter: Why do they do that? And it's not like they understand neurochemistry, but it's clear that when people eat simple carbs as well as alcohol, you distance yourself from the decision-making part of your brain, and you go to the impulse part of your brain where you do things impulsively, and that whole circuitry continues ultimately to stimulate the opiate part of your brain, if you will, and keeps you more and more locked in and further keeps you from accessing that prefrontal part of your brain, prefrontal cortex, that allows you to be the better person that you want to be, that allows you to connect with other people and to understand how today's decisions might play out in terms of consequences for tomorrow.
So what I'm developing here is this theme that our food, for example, simple carbs, foods that cause the dopamine surge, as Dr. Robert Lustig talked about in the Hacking of the American Mind, ultimately are keeping us from making connections to empathy and compassion and forward thinking and causing us to be far more narcissistic and wanting to be involved in immediate gratification and impulsivity. Somebody says about you, you immediately fire back a tweet in response as opposed to taking a deep breath and thinking, "Well, maybe there's a reason that they were critical towards me. I should work on something," whatever.
And planning for the future and worrying and making changes in your life that have an impact on the health of the planet, for example, on the environment. So as we look around and we see the involution of countries, the nationalism that's rising, paying attention only to our needs as opposed to the planet's needs, that very well, through this mechanism may well also represent the westernization of the global diet, a more inflammatory diet, a diet that inhibits our connection to that part of the brain that defines us as being human beings.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. So the prefrontal cortex, that front third of your brain, largest in humans than any other animal by far, is that it's getting turned off repeatedly by foods, by our behavior. It's why I've never been a fan of alcohol as a health food, because as a psychiatrist I just see so many more problems with it. And in Feel Better Fast I talk about tiny habits, so what's the smallest thing I can do today that'll make the biggest difference? And so thinking of our time together, the ultimate tiny habit for brain health is ask yourself, "What I'm about to do good for my brain or bad for it?" And if you know the list that we've talking about in this series of podcasts, your brain is gonna be so much healthier, which means you're also gonna start preventing chronic preventable illnesses.
Dr. David Perlmutter: Let's add to the list. You will regain happiness and contentedness. Contentedness by definition is you had enough. And it's really the opposite of what is being perpetrated and presented to us that we never have enough. We never are rich enough, thin enough, sexy enough. We don't have the best car [inaudible 00:08:06] bigger house. Whatever it may be, buy all this stuff online, that that is that our goal should be. And that's being perpetrated upon us as being the keys to the kingdom. And it's not. In fact, it's keeping us from achieving those goals.
So if you've written about, thinking about, just thinking about what are those factors that you can initiate immediately that can help protect your brain. It's the execution, though. You may have the knowledge, but it's the actual execution of those right decisions that we are being detracted from quite actively, the targeted ads that come to you in your inbox that somehow know what your interests are. Is it a conspiracy? Yeah. By every definition it is a conspiracy. [inaudible 00:08:57] becoming aware of it and turning off what is not social media. It's anything but social. [inaudible 00:09:05].
Dr. Daniel Amen: So let's talk about it. We have one more podcast to do, and I actually would love to talk a little bit about Brain Maker and how important the gut is. And the book you have coming out next year, Brainwash, because it is so in line with the thinking that Tana and I have that you are in a war for the health of your brain, and you need to be armed, prepared, and aware to basically win the fight of your life. Stay with us. We're here with Dr. David Perlmutter.
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