Monday, July 13, 2009

Obesity Cause: Combination of FAT, SUGAR, & SALT Increases Pleasure Hormone Dopamine Levels

Obesity Cause: Combination of FAT, SUGAR, & SALT Increases Pleasure Hormone Dopamine Levels

The New Yorker reviews different books on why Americans are FAT. I started reading former FDA head David Kessler “The End of Overeating” (Rodale; $25.95), David A. Kessler who started the anti-smoking campaign which succeeded more than anyone could have predicted. Because he had a weight yo-yo problem, he went about it as a scientist/medical doctor to find out why he had an insatiable need for fatty, sugary, and salty foods, especially in combination.

He found that when these combinations of food ingredients are consumed, they activate dopamine production which gives us pleasure. That combined with psychologically researched advertisement reinforces these tendencies. I found this to be true so I don't eat fatty, sugary, and salty foods. Like anyone I am not perfect, but since I realize this, I often throw out uneaten food I bought when I cannot resist eating more.

Jim Kawakami
Uly 13, 2009

Obesity Cause: Combination of FAT, SUGAR, & SALT Increases Pleasure Hormone Dopamine Levels

... The evolutionary account of obesity is a powerful one—indeed, almost too powerful. If, as Power and Schulkin contend, humans are genetically programmed to put on weight whenever they encounter plenty, it would seem that by this point virtually everyone in America should be fat. Meanwhile, several million years of hominid evolution can’t explain why it is just in the past few decades that waistlines have expanded.
Eric Finkelstein is a health economist at a research institute in North Carolina. In “The Fattening of America” (Wiley; $26.95), written with Laurie Zuckerman, he argues that Americans started to put on pounds in the eighties because it made financial sense for them to do so. Relative to other goods and services, food has got cheaper in the past few decades, and fattening foods, in particular, have become a bargain. Between 1983 and 2005, the real cost of fats and oils declined by sixteen per cent. During the same period, the real cost of soft drinks dropped by more than twenty per cent.
“For most people, an ice cold Coca-Cola used to be a treat reserved for special occasions,” Finkelstein observes. Today, soft drinks account for about seven per cent of all the calories ingested in the United States, making them “the number one food consumed in the American diet.” If, instead of sweetened beverages, the average American drank water, Finkelstein calculates, he or she would weigh fifteen pounds less.
The correlation between cost and consumption is pretty compelling; as Finkelstein notes, there’s no more basic tenet of economics than that price matters. But, like evolution, economics alone doesn’t seem adequate to the obesity problem. If it’s cheap to consume too many calories’ worth of ice cream or Coca-Cola, it’s even cheaper to consume fewer.
In “The End of Overeating” (Rodale; $25.95), David A. Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, takes a somewhat darker view of the situation. It’s not that sweet and oily foods have become less expensive; it’s that they’ve been reengineered while we weren’t looking. Kessler spends a lot of time meeting with (often anonymous) consultants who describe how they are trying to fashion products that offer what’s become known in the food industry as “eatertainment.” Fat, sugar, and salt turn out to be the crucial elements in this quest: different “eatertaining” items mix these ingredients in different but invariably highly caloric combinations. A food scientist for Frito-Lay relates how the company is seeking to create “a lot of fun in your mouth” with products like Nacho Cheese Doritos, which meld “three different cheese notes” with lots of salt and oil. Another product-development expert talks about how she is trying to “unlock the code of craveability,” and a third about the effort to “cram as much hedonics as you can in one dish.”
Kessler invents his own term—“conditioned hypereating”—to describe how people respond to these laboratory-designed concoctions. Foods like Cinnabons and Starbucks’ Strawberries & Crème Frappuccinos are, he maintains, like drugs: “Conditioned hypereating works the same way as other ‘stimulus response’ disorders in which reward is involved, such as compulsive gambling and substance abuse.” For Kessler, the analogy is not merely rhetorical: research on rats, he maintains, proves that the animals’ brains react to sweet, fatty foods the same way that addicts’ respond to cocaine. A reformed overeater himself—“I have owned suits in every size,” he writes—Kessler advises his readers to eschew dieting in favor of a program that he calls Food Rehab. The principles of Food Rehab owe a lot to those of drug rehab, except that it is not, as Kessler acknowledges, advisable to swear off eating altogether. “The substitute for rewarding food is often other rewarding food,” he writes, though what could compensate for the loss of Nacho Cheese Doritos he never really explains. ...

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