The Science of Munchies-what exactly are some of the possible connections between eating and the brain? It appears that there is a direct line between junk food, especially those that are processed or contain preservatives such as sugar, and children’s behavioral problems including attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, and even learning disabilities. The problem goes farther than just obese children; even healthy children can develop eating problems if their diets do not include the right nutrients.
The Science of Munchies is the discovery of how the chemistry of the brain influences the responses we have to food. We have always eaten in order to satisfy our hunger and provide the body with the nutrients it needs. However, when hunger pangs in the brain, the signals sent by the mid-brain that control appetites become more intense causing the individual to eat. There is evidence that the munchies we crave now come from something other than the actual food we eat.
The Science of Munchies links abnormal brain chemistry to an imbalance in the neurotransmitters in the brain. Neuramine, a chemical used primarily in the nervous system, acts as a signal to the stomach and brain to eat. Although this type of chemical normally acts as a mild calming influence, it becomes amplified in people with obesity who may have less serotonin and excite the brain to eat more. Sugar stimulates both appetite and brain activity. The Science of Munchies suggests that these extra sugars act as natural mood lifters causing us to eat more than normal.
When we eat, our brains release two types of chemicals-neurotransmitters and hormones. Neurotransmitters allow the brain to receive instructions from the nerve endings to carry out functions. Mood-regulating chemicals, which include dopamine and epinephrine, work together with neurotransmitters to calm us down. When munchies enter the body, these compounds may combine with these brain chemicals and cause a euphoric or addictive feeling. This explains why individuals who consume too much junk food tend to have difficulty staying in control over their eating problems.
As a culture, we are constantly told to be conscious of what we eat. The Science of Munchies points out that this information is misleading because many of the foods that cause addictive behavior are considered acceptable at most meals. Snacks between meals are often not reduced in size or contain ingredients that encourage overeating during times when calories are low. The result may be a continuous cycle of overeating leading to compulsive overeating. Changing eating habits may be difficult and may require professional help, but the self-control that overeating develops can eventually lead to a healthier lifestyle.
The study of the science of munchies may provide answers about how to reduce the number of foods that cause addictive behavior. It may also point to other ways to organize our eating schedules. We may begin by replacing junk foods with fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other foods that are higher in nutrients and lower in calories. By combining healthier eating with regular exercise, we can hopefully begin the process of living a healthier lifestyle.