Tuesday, January 28, 2014


One is reminded of the "notorious" statement by the CEO of an international beverage and snack company some years ago that food and beverage industry should not be blamed if some people are over eating and getting obese! According to her consumers have the personal responsibility to pick and choose right food and exercise discipline in controlling how much is to be eaten. To some extent this is a right assessment though the industry knows very well that it has the wherewithal to break the will power by offering mouth watering and tasty products containing just empty calories with very low nutrient content. In a recent study it has been confirmed that many people cannot resist tasty food because of the tendency of their brains to get over whelmed by the pleasure offered by certain foods rich in sugar, fat, salt and flavor. If this is so the phenomenon of binge eating is caused by the involuntary action of the brain on which the individuals have little control. Here is the explanation as provided by large scale study using women who were considered having food addiction based on their own submission about their tendency to continue eating even though their hunger need is fully met.    

"Although addiction was strongly associated with a higher body mass index (BMI), the data also show that you can be an average-weight woman or even underweight and have a negative relationship with food. Geography seems to matter, too. Women from the eastern United States seem to have fewer problems with food addiction than those from the South or Midwest, although researchers don't know why. The foods of choice for these women were so-called "hyper-palatable" treats that are high in fat, sugar, salt and processing. These foods seem to trigger the brain's pleasure and reward centers through increases in the transmission of the "feel good" chemical, dopamine. "The major narrative with every addiction is that people have no willpower," says Gearhardt, who was one of the developers of the Yale Food Addiction Scale. "We know that's not true, so we are trying to better understand if there are some foods that can hijack the system, given the right vulnerabilities in a person, and this study helps us identify those individuals." Because the researchers looked at a large population, the data may have important clinical implications. "We are finally getting at a distinct subset of individuals who are struggling in a way that looks like substance abuse more than anything else," says Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, who was not involved in the study. "Saying eat more vegetables and exercise more won't work with people who are struggling like this."

Like addiction to cigarettes, alcohol and opiates which are confined to some people, many foods can be addictive because of the pleasure they provide while eating. Interestingly most obese people are food addicts while generally this type of addiction is some what linked to the BMI of a person. If this is true different strategies need to be worked out to de-addict them through sustained efforts. As over weight and obesity are becoming a global threat with a potential to adversely affect the quality of life among millions of people, collective and cooperative efforts among countries most affected can only find a practical solution.  


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