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While it might not be news to anyone that's ever obliterated a Bloomin' Onion in minutes, new research has discovered that fatty foods trigger the production of a natural feel-good chemical in the brain similar to the effects of marijuana.
These chemicals, called "endocannabinoids," produce a drug-like feeling that can drive people to consume large amounts of fatty foods like chips and fries. Curiously, sugary or high-protein foods did not have this effect, so the manic high you get from a Pixie Stix binge is literally a different kind of buzz than the lethargic one you get from mozzarella sticks. (Quick side note, if Pixie Stix are meth, and fatty foods are marijuana, does that make steak heroin?)
Endocannabinoids were discovered years ago when researchers were looking into the effects of marijuana and discovered that, under the right circumstances, the body can produce its own cannabinoids, molecules that set off reactions in the nervous system to reduce pain and anxiety.
Interestingly, a 2003 study demonstrated that fifty minutes of vigorous running or cycling can trigger the release of endocannabinoids, producing the much-vaunted "runner's high" that still hasn't enticed me into going jogging.
Predictably, researchers are more interested in blocking the reception of endocannabinoid signals to get people to stop gorging on fatty foods. What a buzzkill. (Ha!)
As interesting as I find research like this, I'm always a bit stunned that the collective reaction isn't a resounding "no shit." I guess it's cool that we know fatty foods produce a literally addictive high, but I know that from late-night Wendy's runs, and I've been lobbying unsuccessfully to have that research published for years.