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"When in Doubt, Add Bacon and Cheese": How the Food Industry Hijacked Our Brains and Made Us Fat

The food industry has changed American eating habits and helped create the country's No. 1 public-health issue.

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But what we did is we studied the effects of not just one nutrient, not just sugar, but sugar and fat, and we found, when you put them together, you get elevations of the brain's dopamine circuitry. And not only that, it doesn't habituate. It doesn't go down time after time. So we see that multipotent, multisensory foods can stimulate the brain's neural circuitry.

Goodman:And you're saying that the food industry, like tobacco, is actively manipulating the addiction. Explain exactly what you mean.

DK:The food industry certainly understands what works. Let me explain to you how it works. Based on past learning, past memory, we get cued. What's a cue? It can be the sight. It could be the smell. It could be location. Every time I walk down Powell Street (in San Francisco), I start thinking about chocolate-covered pretzels. Why? Because I had been on that street before, and I had been into a store, but I had forgotten entirely that I had done that. When I'm on that street that -- just the location -- stimulates thoughts of wanting that creates arousal. It focuses my attention. My brain gets activated. I eat for a second. I have that pleasure. It blocks out all other stimuli. And then I get cued again. And every time I do that, I just strengthen the neural circuitries.

What has the food industry done? They've taken fat, sugar and salt, they've put it on every corner. They've made it available 24/7. They've made it socially acceptable to eat at any time. They've added the emotional gloss of advertising. Look at an ad; you'll love it, you'll want it. They've made food into entertainment. We're living, in fact, in a food carnival.

AK:You talk about the $330 billion restaurant food industry, and one of the things you say is that food is increasingly being assembled, not cooked, in these kitchens of chain restaurants. Can you give us an example? Talk about going to Chili's, or talk about going to any of the restaurants you talk about. And, you know, take us from the beginning to the end, how a dish is prepared.

DK:So, take an appetizer in a modern American restaurant. Take buffalo wings. What are they? You take the fatty part of the chicken, fried usually in the manufacturing plant first. That loads about 30, 40 percent fat. Fry it again in the kitchen of the restaurant. That loads more fat. That red spicy sauce? What is it? Fat and sugar. That white creamy sauce on the side? Fat and salt. What are we eating? Fat on fat on fat on fat on sugar on fat and salt.

Goodman: Let's get personal -- your own story, your own dealing with what you eat, how you've gained weight, how you've lost weight and the different people that you've spoken to as you've researched this book?

DK:I have suits in every size. What I wanted to understand when I started writing The End of Overeating was why it's so hard for so many of us to resist eating.

You know, one night I was watching Oprah, and there was a woman on the show, very well-educated, very well-spoken, and I remember what she said. And I was trying to listen as a physician, as a clinician. She said, "I eat when my husband goes to work in the morning. I eat before he comes home at night. I eat when I'm happy. I eat when I'm sad. I eat when I'm hungry. I eat when I'm not hungry." And then she said, "I don't like myself." And I could understand, I can relate to that behavior. And I wanted to understand what was going on with that woman.

 
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