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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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Greater disclosure, how much added fat, how much added sugar, how much added salt there is to a product, I think, is a very, very important first step in giving Americans information.

Once you understand, once we have the scientific evidence, which we now have, that our behavior is becoming conditioned and driven -- and it's not just our behavior, it's the behavior of our children, that we're, in essence, laying down the neural circuitry, that learning that stays with us for a lifetime -- the fact is, once we understand that and the consequences of that, does the food industry have to change? Absolutely.

Is there a greater role for government in disclosure and education? Absolutely.

But just because our brains are being, in essence, activated, hijacked, manipulated doesn't mean we shouldn't be able to take steps to protect ourselves, to fight back.

AK: And your reaction to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how much obesity costs add to the overall medical costs? And also, if you can also talk about when obesity started increasing in this country, when it became an epidemic of sorts?

DK:Very concerning, certainly as a pediatrician. Back 10 years ago, there were 4 cases of Type 2 diabetes per 1,000 individuals. Type 2 diabetes, I could just as well write "obesity" on the medical chart for the vast majority of cases. Today, that number has more than doubled; there are 9 cases per 1,000 individuals.

But my greatest concern is that the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, which used to show itself in individuals in their 50s and 60s, we're now seeing in children. We're seeing as young as 10, 12, 14.

And my concern is that we used to have adults live for two, three decades with Type 2 diabetes, the renal implications, the eye complications, the peripheral-vascular complications. They would live for two, three decades. And those consequences were major. But now you're going to have children who are going to live for five, six, seven decades after the onset of Type 2 diabetes, and the amount of morbidity, as well as mortality, that will result is very, very concerning.

Goodman:What about those who are saying that this whole issue of obesity costing Americans so much, I mean, in terms of chronic diseases, and now as we talk about health insurance and health insurance reform, is simply a way of pushing diet pills? I'm looking at a piece that says this week Health Affairs published a new study showing obesity accounts for an ever-growing share our health care costs. So the author decided to interview Paul Campos, the author of The Obesity Myth , which argues that the health benefits of losing weight are largely imaginary, that we're using health to advance our class bias in favor of thin people, particularly thin women. 

DK:Type 2 diabetes, a very serious illness, it results from the accumulation, we think, of fat and muscle that affects glucose, metabolism in the bloodstream. It has profound consequences.

In fact the reason I started writing the book, I was sitting in my office at Yale Medical School with a group of residents and fellows, and I said, "If you want to stay alive, what are the things you can do?"

I mean, three-quarters of us are going to die from either cancer, heart disease or stroke. And it was very interesting. I started pulling all the literature on the evidence on how you can prevent those three major killers -- cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke. And it was very interesting, because the librarian who was helping me over a period of months, I noticed, as she was pulling those articles, she lost 30 pounds. We all know that weight is not good for us, but I don't think we understand the extent to which it really contributes to significant morbidity and mortality.

 
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