Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gosh, Who Knew?

Sarah Klein of writes, for, that a scientific study confirms that fattening foods are addictive.

Well, stop the presses.

Don't get me wrong. Some studies are necessary to contribute to our knowledge, to help us learn things we don't know. And they can confirm or refute things that we suspect.

But, really. Don't we all already know that fatty foods can be addictive? When I was younger, I guess they didn't know as much about nutrition as they do today, but the emphasis seemed to have been on sugary foods when I was a child. Maybe there was some knowledge about fat and calories and carbs and things like that, but I remember most of the attention centering around sweets.

It's really been in recent years that the attention has shifted to fats.

Well, to be fair, this may be the first study that, aside from stating what seems to be obvious, actually equates the consumption of these foods to the behavior of people who are addicted to cocaine or heroin. And that makes it only the second substance of which I know (nicotine being the other) that studies have suggested can be as controlling of an individual's life. Over the years, as easily available, high–fat, high–calorie foods have become more plentiful, the obesity rate has gone up at a staggering pace. For years, folks have been blaming poor metabolism or, if their own behavior can no longer avoid implication, an unwillingness to exercise — and to be sure, those factors can play roles.

But there are fast–food joints on just about every block in this city, and I'm sure it's that way where you live as well.

What do you know? Bacon cheeseburgers and fries and pizza and nachos taste good. And they're also fattening. And with the proliferation of the truly obese, it really shouldn't be much of a jump to conclude that the unchecked consumption of those fatty foods that taste so good has contributed to the (pardon the expression) expansion of the obesity problem.

So what can be done? Food is not illegal, like cocaine and heroin. And it can't be regulated, the way tobacco products are supposed to be.

Perhaps this study is like many I have seen conducted in academia — designed to confirm an already generally accepted truth and add bulk (but not authority) to the authors' lists of publications.

And, really, there isn't much that can be done — except possibly to encourage a change in professionals' approach to addictions. Perhaps, for example, if overeating is being equated to a drug addiction, psychologists need to stop treating overeating as a behavioral problem.

But even if they did, that doesn't mean ordinary folks would adjust their attitudes toward the overweight accordingly.

After all, they've been comparing an addiction to nicotine to an addiction to heroin for decades — yet, in spite of such an assessment, people continue to treat smoking cessation as a matter of will power.

But a long–time smoker will tell you that it isn't about will power at all. It's about the powerlessness that smokers experience. And that is not a simple behavioral problem.

What is needed, I guess, is a study that measures people's attitudes. And how to change them.

But that's a marketing problem, I suppose.

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