"When in Doubt, Add Bacon and Cheese": How the Food Industry Hijacked Our Brains and Made Us Fat
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So what I did with my colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, with the scientists -- I wanted to know how many people have characteristics, behavioral characteristics, like that woman.
Let me give you three characteristics. Some people, when I raise these, say, you know, they can't relate, they don't understand these. Others say I'm describing them. First, a hard time resisting your favorite foods, a lack of control in the face of highly palatable foods. Two, a lack of satiation, a lack of feeling full when eating. Three, a preoccupation with thinking about foods between meals, or sometimes when you're eating something, you're thinking about what you're going to be eating next; even with that food right in front of you, you're thinking about what you're going to be eating next.
Those three characteristics: loss of control, lack of satiation, a preoccupation with thinking about foods.
What we found is about 50 percent of obese individuals, 30 percent of overweight individuals, about 20 percent of healthy weight individuals -- that may not seem like a lot, but when you extrapolate, that's some -- and there's risks of extrapolation -- that's some 70 million Americans have this evidence of conditioned hypereating. It's behavior that is both conditioned and driven.
And this is the most interesting part. When we studied -- when we scanned the brains of these individuals who have evidence of these three characteristics, this conditioned hypereating, we see activation of the brain's reward circuits, elevation -- activation -- of the brain's amygdala, both during the anticipation of foods -- even without the foods, just them thinking about the foods or smelling the foods, there's greater activation of those rewards circuits.
And those reward circuits, when they start eating the foods, stay activated and don't shut off. So, for the first time, we have an explanation. We can say to that woman -- we can say to millions of Americans who have a hard time resisting their food in front of them, it's not their fault. There's a biological reason for why it's so hard to resist.
AK:I want to turn to the issue of labeling. Can you talk about how you got the labels, the nutrition labels of the food that the restaurant industry uses? How did you come upon these? Did the food industry just give you the labels?
DK:The label that we worked on back in the 1990s is now on all processed foods on the supermarket. No, the food industry didn't give us that label. We had to fight very hard for that label that's labeled the nutrition facts on all processed foods.
The Washington Post , in fact, did a story, because to research the book I had to recently go Dumpster diving. The reason I had to go Dumpster diving is that label is not on all restaurant foods. In fact, very little of restaurant food has the information today. So we have a lot of information about what's in foods in the supermarket, but very little information in the restaurant area.
Goodman:Here in New York, they passed a law that chains have to say how many calories foods have, a certain size store. How is that -- does that happen in other cities in the United States? And it's not in restaurants, but it's in places like Starbucks.
DK:I was in New York City, and I think that disclosure of calories is very, very important, and it's starting to happen in other cities. And there is legislation that is moving through Congress that would have disclosure of calories on restaurants, certainly the chain restaurants.