Posted on Wed, March 31, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
0 Comments | Categories: Food Justice, Labeling, News, Current Events, School Food, Take Action,
by intern Christine Binder
A recent study in Nature Neuroscience found that rats allowed to binge on high-fat, high-calorie foods junk food bought at the grocery store not only became obese, but also became compulsive eaters. The neuroscientists found that changes in the brains of the obese rats are similar to those found in people with a physical addiction to drugs.
This comes as no surprise if you have read David Kesslers book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, which states that overeating comes not from character flaws, but from biological conditioning. Eating foods high in fat, sugar, or salt reinforces the desire to eat those foods again. The more people eat them, the less rewarding they taste, which drives them to compensate by compulsively eating even more. The food and restaurant industries know this. Tons of research and development goes into designing foods that are literally irresistible, or as the industry calls them, cravable.
Kesslers book has influenced Michelle Obamas Lets Move initiative, which aims to eradicate childhood obesity within a generation. Here is an excerpt from The First Ladys speech to the Grocery Manufacturers Association earlier this month:
“Humans are hard-wired to crave sugary, fatty, salty foods. And it is temping to take advantage of that to create products that are sweeter, richer, and saltier than ever before.
This can be particularly dangerous when it comes to our kids the more of these products they have in their diets, the more accustomed they become to those tastes, and then the more deeply embedded these foods become in their eating habits.”
She then asks the food industry to help by producing and marketing affordable, healthy foods instead of unhealthy ones.
This is a good start. It recognizes that obesity is influenced by ones food environment, not solely personal responsibility, and it acknowledges the food industrys role in shaping the food environment. Incremental change towards healthier products is certainly better than the status quo.
The food industry is quick to congratulate itself for these small changes, however, which are mostly just marketing and public relations strategies. The fact is that the healthiest foods are the least processed and the least marketable, and therefore, the least profitable. The primary interest of corporations is making profit, which will always serve as a limitation to how much change the industry will voluntarily make.
For now, its up to us to be wary of those cravable foods. In order to end childhood obesity, we need to make sure that children become accustomed to eating healthy foods instead of unhealthy ones. An easy way to get involved is through the Time for Lunch campaign. Click here to send an email to Congress asking for healthier school food.