Econintersect: There have been concerns about addictions for many years, even centuries. We are all familiar with addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling and an array of compulsive behavior toward other substances or activities. So perhaps it should not come as a surprise that research is finding that fatty and sugary foods are also addictive for many people. Those who are not able to short circuit compulsion to consume those foods end up paying a price, just as do drug addicts and alcoholics.The following is an excerpt from a Bloomberg article:
A growing body of medical research at leading universities and government laboratories suggests that processed foods and sugary drinks made by the likes of PepsiCo Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) aren’t simply unhealthy. They can hijack the brain in ways that resemble addictions to cocaine, nicotine and other drugs.
“The data is so overwhelming the field has to accept it,”said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “We are finding tremendous overlap between drugs in the brain and food in the brain.”
The idea that food may be addictive was barely on scientists’ radar a decade ago. Now the field is heating up. Lab studies have found sugary drinks and fatty foods can produce addictive behavior in animals. Brain scans of obese people and compulsive eaters, meanwhile, reveal disturbances in brain reward circuits similar to those experienced by drug abusers.
Bloomberg suggests that such scientific results could end up forcing legal restrictions and regulations onto food companies to reduce the exposure of the addicts to the sources of the addiction. In the case of regulation of nicotine, a combination of intensive education and draconian taxes have cut the smoking rate in the U.S. in half over the past several decades. But one should be reminded that Prohibition was an abject failure in controlling alcohol consumption and the war on drugs has been a losing battle.
So perhaps efforts like Alcoholics Anonymous plus the nicotine-cancer education effort could be adapted to improve the dietary habits of Americans, of whom 33% (17% for those under 20) are obese and increasing in number every year.
Hat tip to Naked Capitalism