E-mail: ude. Kessler presents an engaging perspective of the obesity epidemic. About two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight. The number of overweight and obese children is also growing at an alarming rate. These trends have adverse consequences on health because obesity increases the risk of chronic diseases, notably diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obstructive sleep apnea, and cancer.
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Created with Sketch. Last week, Dr. During a seven-year investigation, Dr. Kessler met with scientists, physicians, and food industry insiders to learn why humans cannot resist food. Regardless of how hungry we are, the smell of freshly baked bagels or the sight of Girl Scout Cookies, starts a feeding frenzy that ends only when the plate or bag is empty.
In The End of Overeating, Dr. The food industry has learned what humans want, and is only too happy to give us what we crave. We quickly become trapped in a vicious cycle of dopamine-fueled urges when we want food, and opioid releases when we eat it.
Like other public campaigns, education is power, and the first step toward regaining control of our appetites is to read this book. Kessler took time from his busy schedule to speak with me about what inspired the book, what he learned, and how we can change the way we think about food.
LM: This book started while watching an Oprah episode. Prior to that, had you ever seriously considered why food has such a pull over people in general, or you in particular? DK: We implemented and helped design the food label—the modern nutritional facts that appear on the back of most packaged foods—back in the s.
That label was about the ingredients and nutritional value including percentage of daily values, but I never looked at the question that way. LM: In your book, you discuss the business of food, explain how the food industry tries to manipulate appetites, and go so far as to make comparisons to big tobacco by implying that food has a pull over people the same way drugs do.
Do you think that these food industries will be vilified or held financially accountable for obesity related diseases in the future? DK: Fifty years ago, the tobacco industry, confronted with the evidence that smoking causes cancer, decided to deny the science and deceive the American public.
Now, we know that highly palatable foods—sugar, fat, salt—are highly reinforcing and can activate the reward center of the brain. The question becomes what do they do now? For a lot of people, that highly salient stimulus is food.
Even for people that are healthy weight, food activates the neural circuits of their brains, and they have this conditioned and driven behavior we call conditioned hypereating. DK: For one gentleman I spoke with, the hardest thing for him every day is to get home past the newsstand at the train station because of the Kit Kats.
Once your behavior becomes conditioned and driven, you get into this cycle and you get cued. When the neural circuits get activated, it focuses your attention. Every time you do it you strengthen it. You make it not only accessible, but you make it socially acceptable, you create the social norms, you add the advertising, the emotional gloss.
Do you think there will be some sort of government regulation? DK: Government has a role to play, but if you look at the great public health successes, they come from changes in how we perceive the product. You have to take the power out of the food by changing how you view the stimulus. LM: I understand that much depends on the individual but do you have any suggestions for President Obama or the government? Is there any way they can help?
DK: The woman on Oprah had no idea what was going on. No one told her what was going on. If your chicken is injected with sugar and fat, and your food is loaded and layered upon layer with fat on sugar on salt, there needs to be disclosure. It also is how you look at advertising. But if advertising is a cue, then it gives you greater reason to regulate it, especially to kids. In the end, it has to come from what do we want? What do we view as desirable?
What do we view as socially acceptable? A lot of this is social norms. LM: That ties into what you were talking about with eatertainment as an aspect of this phenomenon. LM: What was the most surprising thing you learned during your investigation? Only when I understood how my brain gets activated, how my brain gets encoded, did I learn that the power of food comes from our ability to anticipate it. LM: laughing Yes.
Understanding that food has more power than we realize, was the most important thing. LM: Do you consider hypereating an effect of more disposable income or a higher standard of living?
Is this unique to our period of time? DK: We always were wired to focus on the most salient stimuli. We always had salient foods when I was growing up, but desserts occasionally or foods that were fats on fats occasionally.
Hypereating starts with sugar, fat, and salt, and then you add the stimuli associated with that, the emotional gloss, the availability, and the accessibility. LM: What percentage of Americans would you say suffer from hypereating? You ask them, and they say, "I can eat or not.
If you look at the rest, and you ask them whether they have a sense of loss of control in the face of highly palatable food, if they have a lack of satiation—a lack of feeling full—when eating highly palatable food, and a preoccupation of thinking about food in between meals, about 70 million people would score pretty high on all three characteristics.
LM: Is there anything else that you would like to add or say? No one ever described me to myself. No one explained to me why I keep on eating.
The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler PDF
Created with Sketch. Last week, Dr. During a seven-year investigation, Dr. Kessler met with scientists, physicians, and food industry insiders to learn why humans cannot resist food. Regardless of how hungry we are, the smell of freshly baked bagels or the sight of Girl Scout Cookies, starts a feeding frenzy that ends only when the plate or bag is empty. In The End of Overeating, Dr. The food industry has learned what humans want, and is only too happy to give us what we crave.
The end of overeating