Are We a Generation of the Addicted?

Are Some Foods Addictive?

I ask this question and provide answers in my latest blog article at Hormones Matter. Below a very much shortened version. I hope you read the full article to understand the full concept.

…While we all recognize drugs and alcohol as addictive substances, today, one of the most common addictions is to food, specifically to carbohydrates. Yes, carbohydrates. What is a carbohydrate? It is basically a sugar such as glucose, fructose, and starch. I am sure by now you have heard the news that sugar is addictive, but do you know that there are many foods that are high in carbohydrates that don’t taste sweet at all? For example bread, rice, potatoes, legumes, etc., are full of sugar without tasting sweet. In these foods the sugar is in the form of starches, which are long chains of glucose molecules, but since we lack enzymes that can break these long chains into individual glucose molecules, we don’t taste their sweetness. Yet they are full of addictive sugar…

The Addicted Brain

The actual process of addiction happens at the molecular level. When a person drinks a glass of wine, for example, several neurons are activated by the alcohol entering the brain. This activation occurs at a very basic molecular level through what are called receptors. Receptors are like the locks on a door. To open the door, one must have a key that fits… 

Food Addiction

With the long introduction to the mechanisms of addiction out of the way, we now switch to my topic of primary interest: food. Some foods contain chemicals that make them more addictive than others. In other words, the reason why kids love cereals, bread, rice, and similar, is not just because they are sweet but also because they have certain chemicals in them that create a reaction in the brain that drives repeated and excessive consumption. Many foods contain proteins that have opioid functions in our body. Sugar, for example, activates dopamine very similarly to how alcohol does. Other substances may activate the same opioid receptors to a lesser degree dose dependently. For example, gluten exorphins (in wheat), casomorphins (in milk), rubiscolins (in spinach), soymorphins (in soybean)1, zein of maize (in corn), hordein (in barley), secalin (in rye), and others, are capable of opioid-like activities. The full list of  addictive trouble-makers in foods can be found here...

…the problem is actually not as much gluten but rather the prolamins. “In gluten sensitive people the presence of prolamins in the small intestine causes the immune system to produce antibodies”—in other words, what is believed to be caused by gluten, is actually caused by gliadin. It is gliadin that may lead to damage of the gut, in addition to causing various autoimmune conditions.

Gliadin, a type of prolamin, is a glycoprotein (a carbohydrate attached to a protein) contained within gluten. It is gliadin that causes inflammation by stimulating T-cells (immune cells). All grains, even if they contain very little gluten may contain irritating gliadin. Even non-grains, such as oats and quinoa contain gliadin despite being gluten free and so a true gluten-sensitive person will also react to these foods very strongly. Gluten (and gliadin) exorphins are opioid peptides.  Exorphins are morphine-like substances that are formed during the digestion of the gluten and gliadin protein.

Like morphine, exorphins bind to opioid receptors that are widely distributed throughout the body…

Spinach: I bet you didn’t think I would bring spinach up as something that is addictive, but it can be. Spinach contains substances called rubiscolins that are morphine-like in their ability to cause addiction in some people.

Soybean, Cruciferous Veggies and Sweet Potatoes: I am sure you didn’t think I would mention these under one caption either. They all damage the thyroid (they are goitrogenic). In the case of soy, with two soy isoflavones, genistein and daidzein, inhibit thyroid peroxidase, an enzyme necessary for making thyroid hormone. It also effeminates people of all genders because it contains the estrogenic compound, phytoestrogen. And to our subject, soy is also addictive via the soymorphins in it. As the name suggests, it activates morphine receptors… Rice: when I was in the process of quitting plant carbs, I had the hardest time parting with rice. Rice is a staple food in many cultures and I found it very hard to accept that it stimulates several neurotransmitters, such as GABA and serotonin

But… Humans Have Eaten These for Millenia!

…many Northern European countries are moving to a plant-based ways of eating, something that would not have been possible as little as 150 years ago. What plants would grow in the snow in the dead of winter without hothouses? Without light, heat, or transportation?

…In addition, different regions of the world ate different types of plants based on what was local to them. Rice, for example, rice was unknown in America till 1680. Wheat was first grown in the US in the late 1800s. While corn was grown in America over 7000 years ago. It was Columbus who introduced corn to Europe

Angela A Stanton, PhD

Comments are welcome, as always, and are moderated for appropriateness


About Angela A Stanton, Ph.D.

Angela A Stanton, PhD, is a Neuroeconomist focusing on chronic pain--migraine in particular--physiology, electrolyte homeostasis, nutrition, and genetics. She lives in Southern California. Her current research is focused on migraine cause, prevention, and treatment without the use of medicine. As a forever migraineur from childhood, her discovery was helped by experimenting on herself. She found the cause of migraine to be at the ionic level, associated with disruption of the electrolyte homeostasis, resulting from genetic variations of all voltage dependent channels, gates, and pumps (chanelopathy) that modulate electrolyte mineral density and voltage in the brain. In addition, insulin and glucose transporters, and several other variants, such as MTHFR variants of B vitamin methylation process and many others are different in the case of a migraineur from the general population. Migraineurs are glucose sensitive (carbohydrate intolerant) and should avoid eating carbs as much as possible. She is working on her hypothesis that migraine is a metabolic disease. As a result of the success of the first edition of her book and her helping over 5000 migraineurs successfully prevent their migraines world wide, all ages and both genders, and all types of migraines, she published the 2nd (extended) edition of her migraine book "Fighting The Migraine Epidemic: Complete Guide: How To Treat & Prevent Migraines Without Medications". The 2nd edition is the “holy grail” of migraine cause, development, and prevention, incorporating all there is to know. It includes a long section for medical and research professionals. The book is full of academic citations (over 800) to authenticate the statements she makes to make it easy to follow up by those interested and to spark further research interest. It is a "Complete Guide", published on September 29, 2017. Dr. Stanton received her BSc at UCLA in Mathematics, MBA at UCR, MS in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, PhD in Economics with dissertation in neuroscience (culminating in Neuroeconomics) at Claremont Graduate University, fMRI certification at Harvard University Medical School at the Martinos Center for Neuroimaging for experimenting with neurotransmitters on human volunteers, certification in LCHF/ketogenic diet from NN (Nutrition Network), certification in physiology (UPEN via Coursea), Nutrition (Harvard Shool of Public Health) and functional medicine studies. Dr. Stanton is an avid sports fan, currently power weight lifting and kickboxing. For relaxation (yeah.. about a half minute each day), she paints and photographs and loves to spend time with her family of husband of 45 years, 2 sons and their wives, and 2 granddaughters. Follow her on Twitter at: @MigraineBook, LinkedIn at and facebook at
This entry was posted in Must Read and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

I would love to see your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.