David Kessler, author of the new bestseller, The End of Overeating, just wrote an article investigating why obesity rates have gone out of control over the past thirty years. It turns out that when food companies load up foods with enough sugar, salt, and fat, they end up stimulating dopamine production in ways that’s akin to what happens during drug addiction:
In theory there’s a limit to how much stimulation rewarding foods can generate. We are supposed to habituate – to neuroadapt. When Di Chiara gave animals a cheesy snack called Fonzies, the levels of dopamine in their brains increased. Over time, habituation set in, dopamine levels fell and the food lost its capacity to activate their behaviour.
But if the stimulus is powerful enough, novel enough or administered intermittently enough, the brain may not curb its dopamine response. Desire remains high. We see this with cocaine use, which does not result in habituation. Hyperpalatable foods alter the landscape of the brain in much the same way.
Rewarding foods are rewiring our brains. As they do, we become more sensitive to the cues that lead us to anticipate the reward. In that circularity lies a trap: we can no longer control our responses to highly palatable foods because our brains have been changed by the foods we eat.
Given the biological mechanisms that are involved, efforts like New York City’s initiative to reduce salt consumption shouldn’t be sneered at as nanny-state meddling. As always, it’s wise to check out how the Center for Consumer Freedom responds, and just support the opposite. (Thanks, Venkat.) Link.