“Dopamine” is a very hot subject nowadays; so hot we can read newspaper articles making reference about this important brain neurotransmitter on a regular basis; so hot, it is like everyone knows about dopamine…
Anyway, I will still take it from the bottom and talk about dopamine in relation with a it’s impact on the success of a Zero Carb diet.
To make it simple, dopamine has 3 important functions in our body. First, and very important, it is responsible for the nerve pathways that lead to movement. For example, a lack of dopamine in specific brain centers will lead to dysfunction in muscle coordination, eg. Parkinson disease. Then, and not the least, dopamine is also responsible for creating a sensation of pleasure in any exciting situation we may experience, from sex to drug, but also from enjoying a nice meal or good company, not forgetting the trill of gambling or “excess shopping”. Finally, dopamine acts on the mood and, as serotonin, has an “anti-depressive” effect.
There is an individual level of dopamine release for every person and this will depend on many factors. Some may be born with less dopamine receptors then others (or will develop less receptor during their infancy) and so, will need to release more dopamine to get to a specific level of satisfaction. This is the fundamental basis of the “theory of addiction” which may have multiples causes. Also, and it is very important, any individual will release dopamine according to his past life’s “exciting experiences” AND is actual “pleasure lifestyle”…
Interestingly, substances stimulating a “dopamine pleasure rush” in the brain can lead to different level of addiction. For example, smoking has a risk of 18 % of getting addicted while drinking alcohol has one of 27 %. And while heroin as a 92 % risk, sex has 4 % and sugar has 11% risk…
Which signify that in 11% of the population, consuming sugar will create an addiction behavior; meaning that when stopping eating sugar, there will be withdrawal symptoms AND to manage getting a “sugar rush” will mean, with time, consuming larger quantities of the said sugar.
But let’s go back to Zero Carb.
It is known protein has not a significant risk for addiction, contrarily to sugar. As for fat, it is not clear; anyway, did you ever tried to binge on fat alone? For myself, there is a limit at what I can eat if I only eat butter… But one thing is sure, the combination sugar + fat is extremely addictive.
But what about the “protein and fat combination” risk of addiction?
After some research, it seems there is not a lot of knowledge available on the subject. But if I rely on my own experience, I can do interesting observations.
For me, if I eat a lean piece of meat with no added fat, I certainly not have a big “dopamine rush”. A piece of boiled skinless chicken breast for example, with no salt or spices, is absolutely “pleasure less”. I do not crave it and my brain, wanting me to create a dopamine release will not push me toward this kind of food item.
On the other hand, if I add some butter, if I grill the chicken, if I leave the skin on, if I add salt and spices, I will certainly look to choose this kind of food.
But do not forget: in reality, I am not looking to eat tasty chicken; I want to get my “dopamine rush”.
So does this mean I should eat tasteless food items? Yes and no.
Because studies and experiences have documented that, on the long run, not experiencing pleasure with food will lead to depression, likely caused by the lack of release of dopamine. This was described many times in human history in folks that had only lean meat to eat, of course with no "fun carbohydrates"…
Interestingly, we know drug addicts are often not interested in food that much… except when they lack drugs… Just as when drinkers become sober, they tend to eat more sugar to get their “fix”. As they say, "leave one addictive substance, and you will look for another one"…
Personally, I strongly believe eating should bring pleasure. Some have tried in the past to create “boring food diets” thinking this would help to loose weight but they had no success with it.
This is why Low Carb is working so well compare to low-fat or low-calories ways of eating. “Low Carb”, as long as it is “High Fat”, should bring a constant release of dopamine, which is excellent for your brain health.
But what if someone consumes too much fat on a “Low Card High Fat” diet? Well, maybe this is a trap if this someone has an “addiction tendency”. The “trap” meaning the pad of butter will lead to a few tablespoons of butter to get a good dopamine rush… with the consequences you can imagine on weight…
I would like to conclude, “just eat your fatty meat”… and I think this time, this is probably the best idea!!! As I already told in a recent post, anything between 75-80% of total daily calories from fat is probably the way to go.
Personally, I like to dose any added fat for a meal, meaning I put a fixed quantity over any meat portion when serving my plate… so I avoid leaving the butter on the table to prevent any “all-I-can-add-butter” risk!!!