Tuesday, March 30, 2010
High Calorie Diet and Dopamine
This is an example of bad science I think. There is a study printed on CNN going around about high calorie/high fat diets and their effect on rat brains. Basically, lots of human food caused rats to become highly addicted (just like heroine or cocaine) and would continue eating these foods even when electroshock was applied. The basic idea is fine, and interesting but what drives me nuts is the fact that the "addicted" diet is a combination of bacon, sausage, cheesecake and frosting - so why the fuck did they include all of the different types and not separate high fat from high sugar etc... Then they state plainly that all of those are bad for our brains. That is bad science! The whole point of a scientific experiment is to control variables so you can identify individual elements. Maybe the combination of sugar AND fat is the bad part but based on their design we have no idea because they did not investigate the role of just high fat vs high sugar etc AND the combinations. If for example there was no effect by either the high fat or high sugar alone, but a significant effect when combined that would be informative but for all we know it could just be the fat alone (highly unlikely - read Gary Taubes' Good Calories Bad Calories and then talk to me or better yet his NY Times article here) or and more likely it could be just the high sugar since there are numerous studies looking at the effect like this one from Princeton that looked at just the effect of sugar and low and behold it increased dopamine receptors in the rat brain. The problem with the CNN article is it blatantly states high fat which I disagree because they didn't look at that but rather high sugar with fat.