Feel-Good Genes and Addiction, Continued

Heredity influences the body and brain to have certain attitudes and behaviors around food and eating. This is significant for many reasons. It could influence the effectiveness of any program designed to alleviate the problems that are called, for lack of better terms, food addiction or eating addiction.

The more positive a person feels in general, the more likely they are to participate in the program with a hopeful and cooperative attitude. The paradox here is that, if their baseline emotional state was pretty good in the first place, they might not have been drawn into harmful eating habits, and the whole question of their joining and participating in a program would be moot.

In a previous post, we mentioned that about one out of five people apparently experience natural happiness because of their genetic makeup. In many instances, this tends to line up with nationality, and the next post will go into more detail about the reasons for that. Researchers Michael Minkov in Bulgaria and Michael Bond in Hong Kong looked into the situation and wrote it up for the Journal of Happiness Studies. The article begins with a definition:

Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body, stimulating a sense of happiness and mental wellness. It works by binding to the same receptors in the brain as the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

This may seem counterintuitive, but Dr. Richard A Friedman in his very thorough article “The Feel-Good Gene,” wrote:

Thus, it is possible that a medication that targets the endocannabinoid system could be beneficial in treating addiction to cannabis, and other drugs, too.

And could such medication also help to pry people away from their attachment to food and overeating? That is one of the many questions inspired by such chemical explorations.

Wellness writer and biologist Deane Alban helped explain these concepts to a larger public, with the addition of information about how to increase the body’s supply of anandamide. For instance, people do not eat chocolate just because of candy’s delicious sweetness. It turns out that basic unsweetened chocolate is the chief food source from which a human can derive anandamide. Chocolate also contains caffeine, serotonin, tryptophan, and other biochemicals that possess mood-elevating effects, as well as ingredients that delay the breakdown of anandamide.

As we have seen, anandamide gets broken down by an enzyme known as FAAH, which comes from the gene that keeps four-fifth of the people less happy than the fortunate one-fifth. The bounty of nature has also provided another chemical that helps protect the “bliss molecule” by inhibiting FAAH. Known as kaempferol, it is found in green tea, some fruits, and several vegetables including — yes — broccoli, the comical opposite of chocolate. Strange as it seems, they all share this very important trait of fostering anandamide’s presence in the body.

Back to Dr. Friedman again for a moment:

The fact is that we are all walking around with a random and totally unfair assortment of genetic variants that make us more or less content, anxious, depressed or prone to use drugs… What we really need is a drug that can boost anandamide — our bliss molecule — for those who are genetically disadvantaged.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “’Genes may contribute to making some nations happier than others,’ First study to show link between genetic make-up and perceived national happiness,” ScienceDaily.com, 01/14/16
Source: “The Feel-Good Gene,” Archive.ph, 03/06/15
Source: “Anandamide: Bliss Molecule for Happiness & Mental Balance,” BeBrainFit.com, 09/01/21
Images by sjephoto and Richard North/CC BY 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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