The Nucleus Accumbens

Start listening

In Are You Always Hungry, Dr. David Ludwig tells us:

“The results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Similar to our first study, blood glucose and insulin levels were higher after the fast-acting milkshake for the first hour or two. But by four hours after consuming the fast-acting shake, blood glucose fell to lower levels and reported hunger was greater, compared to the slow-acting shake. At that time, we conducted brain imaging scans, using a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The scans detected one brain region, called the nucleus accumbens, that lit up like a laser after the fast-acting shake. The effect was so strong and consistent, it occurred in every one of our participants, providing strong statistical confidence in the results. The nucleus accumbens is considered ground zero for reward, craving, and addiction—including alcohol, tobacco, and cocaine abuse. Activation of this brain region on a weight loss diet would erode willpower, making that sticky bun exceedingly hard to resist. The concept of food addiction is controversial because, unlike substances of abuse, we need food to live. However, this study suggests that highly processed carbohydrates may hijack basic reward circuitry in the brain, not because they are inherently so tasty (both milk shakes had the same sweetness), but instead because of direct actions on metabolism. Hunger is hard enough to fight under any circumstances, but once the nucleus accumbens joins in, it’s all over.”

Again. “The nucleus accumbens is considered ground zero for reward, craving, and addiction,” and eating fast-acting carbs in an fMRI lights up the nucleus accumbens “like a laser.”

Not too long ago, my nucleus accumbens lit up “like a laser” daily. I was addicted to drinking sugar & eating bread. I would drink 250+ grams of sugar daily. I would go out for lunch and drink 1-3 sweet teas, then 1-3 cokes, then 1-3 lemonades, and I always got a sugary beverage in a to-go cup. I was extraordinarily addicted.

Here is the crazy thing: when I stopped drinking sugar, just going into restaurants where I used to drink caused intense cravings for months.

That said, after about 12 months, visiting those places without cravings became easy. Self-efficacy 101 style: if I can do it, you can, and if you already have done it or are trying, then high five!!!