Thursday, December 15, 2011


Remember how much money the the tobacco industry had to shell out after the class action through legal efforts in the US to pin down the industry which deliberately suppressed information that implied the addictive nature of tobacco? It is true that tobacco industry, in spite of this set back, still continues to have sizable "practitioners" who just refuse to see the writing on the wall and continue to indulge in smoking what ever the price of the product! One can only say that this most unfortunate and illogical. During the last one decade there have been compelling evidence that food industry also is going the "tobacco way", if scientific studies in multi lateral institutions are taken seriously. The main culprit is the main stream processed foods containing high levels of sugar and fat manufactured and marketed by the industry targeting youngsters and adults alike. How far this trend will continue with the industry in a denial mode remains to be seen and probably time is running out for it to self discipline the members to bring about significant changes in the product portfolio from the present one. Here is a comprehensive commentary on this phenomenon that must receive attention policy makers all over the world. 

"Cupcakes may be addictive, just like cocaine. A growing body of medical research at leading universities and government laboratories suggests that processed foods and sugary drinks made by the likes of PepsiCo Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) aren't simply unhealthy. They can hijack the brain in ways that resemble addictions to cocaine, nicotine and other drugs. "The data is so overwhelming the field has to accept it," said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "We are finding tremendous overlap between drugs in the brain and food in the brain." The idea that food may be addictive was barely on scientists' radar a decade ago. Now the field is heating up. Lab studies have found sugary drinks and fatty foods can produce addictive behavior in animals. Brain scans of obese people and compulsive eaters, meanwhile, reveal disturbances in brain reward circuits similar to those experienced by drug abusers. Twenty-eight scientific studies and papers on food addiction have been published this year, according to a National Library of Medicine database. As the evidence expands, the science of addiction could become a game changer for the $1 trillion food and beverage industries. If fatty foods and snacks and drinks sweetened with sugar and high fructose corn syrup are proven to be addictive, food companies may face the most drawn-out consumer safety battle since the anti-smoking movement took on the tobacco industry a generation ago".

What can any one under such compelling circumstances? Will a blanket ban on "bad" foods work? Can raising taxes on high sugar and high fat foods be a remedy to the problem? Educating the consumer to avoid obesity causing foods is easier said than done! Suggestion to punish obese people through social boycott is just ridiculous, even to think of! The reported cost of supporting the obese population is staggering indeed. Probably evolving an ideal frame work for healthy food profiles within which all manufacturers will have to design their products and punishing those who violate these guidelines through high taxation may be considered in consultation with all stake holders.


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