Hyper-palatable Food and Drugs

Brain Reward Center and Hyper-palatable Food and Drugs

Gearhardt, Davis, Kuschne and Brownell (2011) explain that food addiction is as an oxymoron as consuming food is typically necessary for health growth and survival. However, the majority of highly processed foods which damages an individual’s health are similar to abusing drugs than to the natural source’s energy that was traditionally consumed. The humans have evolved to desire foods high in salt, sugar, and fat, and their availability and quantities are now in refined and processed food, causing an abuse identical to that of addictive drugs like alcohol and cocaine. Hyper-palatable foods and addictive drugs are similar in that both alter neurobiological systems, activate opioid and dopamine neural circuit, are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, elicit cue-triggered cravings and others. The amygdala is found in every cerebral hemisphere and it alters emotions that trigger the consumption of hyper palatable food.

Development of Conditioned Hyper-eating

A conditioned hyper-eating according to Kessler (2009) is a powerful drive for a combination of salt, fat, and sugar which competes with the conscious capacity of saying no. people develop conditioned overeating due to three independent and powerful forces that engage fundamental neural mechanisms which interfere with the executive control systems: emotions, priming, and cues. When a cue captures an individual’s attention, as explained by Dvorsky (2014), it motivates them to act. When a person is aroused by reward anticipation, they search for the release that changes their feelings. Another reason why a person develops conditioned hyper-eating is the power of priming. At times, only one taste of food can trigger conditioned hyper-eating (priming), where a small quantity generates a meaningful response. Priming is lodged in the underlying motivational circuitry of the brain, and it has the power of making an individual to pursue more of the stimulant. Emotion is another factor causing conditioned hyper-eating as it intensifies the drive to eat, overpowers the executive control and heightens the power of cues. It acts like self-medication where a person takes a particular food to calm down.

Emergency and Roots of Hyper-eating

Emotions, priming, and cues trigger all drivers conditioned for hyper-eating in a similar way, where they stimulate mental ghosts.  The ghosts represent the past emotional and sensory food associations that are stored in the brain (Kessler, 2009). When a person expects the food to give them relief from distress (negative reinforcement) or pleasure (positive reinforcement), their expectations intensifies the reward value. When a person focuses solely on not eating, they are ultimately pushed to eating more. This is because the deprived feeling increases the food’s reward value resulting to indulgence or abandon. Kessler (2009) explains that individuals who are obese significantly consume more than those who are not obese. They also tend to eat beyond their hunger point leading to the emergence of conditioned hyper-eating. Restraint and externality are in the most recent years considered as the roots of conditioned hyper-eating.

Warning Signs of Hyper-Eating Children

One of the warning signs in children according to Kessler (2009) is the loss of control. Children who have lost control eat without seizing until the meal is taken away from them. The kids eat even when they are not hungry. The sight of food or a special snack triggers the need to eat. The children lack eating control while hungry and they are susceptible to food cues set in generous servings.

Culture and Overeating

According to Kessler (2009), culture has affected overeating as there are many and exceptional food encounters than there were in the 1980s which have led to the elevated obesity rates. Highly palatable food are available everywhere at any time. There is an emergency of drive-through fast foods, pharmacies, gas stations, and health clubs that are selling snacks and other food. Traditionally, there were social mores that used to restrict eating in some locations which are no longer present. Social occasions and meetings are held around food. Availability of food and the opportunity of its consumption are ubiquitous, which is a huge energy intake driver for adults and children. Traditionally, there were meals where people used to eat together, and snacks were for children, however, today snacks are the norm for everybody.


Dvorsky, D. (2014). How ‘Hyperpalatable’ Foods Could Turn You Into A Food Addict. Io9. Retrieved from http://io9.gizmodo.com/how-hyperpalatable-foods-could-turn-you-into-a-food-add-1575144399

Gearhardt, A., Davis, C., Kuschne, R., & Brownell, K. (2011). The Addiction Potential of Hyperpalatable Foods. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, (4), 140-145. Retrieved from http://fastlab.psych.lsa.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Gearhardtetal_AddictionPotentialofHyperpalatableFoods_2011.pdf

Kessler, D. (2009). TAKING CONTROL OF THE INSATIABLE AMERICAN APPETITE. The End Of Overeating. Retrieved from https://veesbantingshop.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/The-End-of-overeating.pdf

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