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The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

In lay terms, it is the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more. Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating.

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

In lay terms, it is the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more. Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating.

1957 Age 43: Swam the Golden Gate Channel, towing a 2,500-pound cabin cruiser; 1975  Age 61: Swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, underwater, for a  second time handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat; 1976  Age 62: Commemorating the “Spirit of ‘76”, swam 1 mile in Long Beach  Harbor, handcuffed, shackled and towing 13 boats (representing the 13  original colonies) containing 76 people; 1979 Age 65: Towed 65  boats filled with 6,500-pounds of Lousiana Pacific wood pulp while  handcuffed and shackled in Lake Ashinoko, near Tokyo, Japan;   1984 Age 70: Handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and  currents, towed 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in  the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1.5 miles away.

1957 Age 43: Swam the Golden Gate Channel, towing a 2,500-pound cabin cruiser;

1975 Age 61: Swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, underwater, for a second time handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat;

1976 Age 62: Commemorating the “Spirit of ‘76”, swam 1 mile in Long Beach Harbor, handcuffed, shackled and towing 13 boats (representing the 13 original colonies) containing 76 people;

1979 Age 65: Towed 65 boats filled with 6,500-pounds of Lousiana Pacific wood pulp while handcuffed and shackled in Lake Ashinoko, near Tokyo, Japan; 

1984 Age 70: Handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and currents, towed 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1.5 miles away.

Eric Mar is about to go on The Daily Show and become a national joke. He is the author of San Francisco’s ban on Happy Meals.
Because the ban lies at the intersection of San Francisco, politics and pop culture, and because it coincides with the holidays, I’ll be stuck defending Eric Mar to my relatives.
I hate Eric Mar.
But first, a quick thought experiment:
Imagine a world where children are allowed to eat whatever they want.
Imagine there are no parents.
Predict the medical consequences of such a world.
Now compare your imagined world with the actual world we live in.
HOW IS THIS COUNTERFACTUAL DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW?
Forget the future, look around.
1 in 5 kids are obese. Not fat, not “Could lose a few.” Obese.
So are their parents. Please see step #2.

I’ve lost you, haven’t I? Let’s try something else.
Have you ever seen the popular television series Mad Men?
Often, the show will feature a practice which seems backward or primitive by today’s standards. For example, a doctor will be smoking while giving a woman a pelvic exam. Most viewers think, “I can’t believe they were allowed to do that back then!”
Eventually they banned smoking during pelvic exams.

You’re the one who made fun of the ban.

Eric Mar is about to go on The Daily Show and become a national joke. He is the author of San Francisco’s ban on Happy Meals.

Because the ban lies at the intersection of San Francisco, politics and pop culture, and because it coincides with the holidays, I’ll be stuck defending Eric Mar to my relatives.

I hate Eric Mar.

But first, a quick thought experiment:

  1. Imagine a world where children are allowed to eat whatever they want.
  2. Imagine there are no parents.
  3. Predict the medical consequences of such a world.
  4. Now compare your imagined world with the actual world we live in.

HOW IS THIS COUNTERFACTUAL DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW?

Forget the future, look around.

1 in 5 kids are obese. Not fat, not “Could lose a few.” Obese.

So are their parents. Please see step #2.

I’ve lost you, haven’t I? Let’s try something else.

Have you ever seen the popular television series Mad Men?

Often, the show will feature a practice which seems backward or primitive by today’s standards. For example, a doctor will be smoking while giving a woman a pelvic exam. Most viewers think, “I can’t believe they were allowed to do that back then!”

Eventually they banned smoking during pelvic exams.

You’re the one who made fun of the ban.

You’ve perhaps wondered why acupuncture, chiropractors, meditation and açaí berries work so well?


The placebo effect.

ohheygreat:

Jay Parkinson MD and I had an exchange in the comment section on this post that I’d like to elevate to the blog proper. I had taken umbrage with his initial post. We had a conversation. Jay’s final comment is shown in the image above. 
“I don’t always believe everything I write.”
Jay is looked to as an expert in both medicine and public health. He has an MD after his name, a sizable following on the internet, a steady stream of publicity, regular gigs speaking at events. He’s also a co-founder of a company that creates new healthcare solutions.
I find it deeply disturbing he would make damaging and potentially dangerous statements and then dismiss them as something he does not believe in. 
There is an enormous gulf between writing with nuance and making an inflammatory, sweeping generalization like “anti-depressants are the modern snake oil” simply to “get people to think.” Especially when you fail to follow up with any nuance or by guiding people to help them understand. Posting an excerpt from a Newsweek article that further emphasizes your point - an article that itself was nuanced - is not the same thing.
You can write what you believe in without using fine detail and get people to listen to you. Hell, you can even write bullshit you don’t believe in - as long as it’s not damaging and dangerous, and as long as you aren’t an expert meant to help and guide people. 
As a doctor, your primary concern should be caring for patients and doing what is best for them - not getting people’s attention by any means necessary, not busting up “Big Pharma,” not letting the bias come through from some consumer protection organization you worked for. People are fed up enough with the health care system, with people lying to them, with being unable to figure out how to navigate the system, with having the truth hidden from them behind smoke screens from one side or the other. If you want to build a system that works, if you really want to help people, if you want them to be well, then start by speaking the truth. 

ohheygreat:

Jay Parkinson MD and I had an exchange in the comment section on this post that I’d like to elevate to the blog proper. I had taken umbrage with his initial post. We had a conversation. Jay’s final comment is shown in the image above. 

“I don’t always believe everything I write.”

Jay is looked to as an expert in both medicine and public health. He has an MD after his name, a sizable following on the internet, a steady stream of publicity, regular gigs speaking at events. He’s also a co-founder of a company that creates new healthcare solutions.

I find it deeply disturbing he would make damaging and potentially dangerous statements and then dismiss them as something he does not believe in. 

There is an enormous gulf between writing with nuance and making an inflammatory, sweeping generalization like “anti-depressants are the modern snake oil” simply to “get people to think.” Especially when you fail to follow up with any nuance or by guiding people to help them understand. Posting an excerpt from a Newsweek article that further emphasizes your point - an article that itself was nuanced - is not the same thing.

You can write what you believe in without using fine detail and get people to listen to you. Hell, you can even write bullshit you don’t believe in - as long as it’s not damaging and dangerous, and as long as you aren’t an expert meant to help and guide people. 

As a doctor, your primary concern should be caring for patients and doing what is best for them - not getting people’s attention by any means necessary, not busting up “Big Pharma,” not letting the bias come through from some consumer protection organization you worked for. People are fed up enough with the health care system, with people lying to them, with being unable to figure out how to navigate the system, with having the truth hidden from them behind smoke screens from one side or the other. If you want to build a system that works, if you really want to help people, if you want them to be well, then start by speaking the truth. 

jayparkinsonmd: ilovecharts

CureTogether and PatientsLikeMe are cranking out some interesting data findings right now. Notice that antidepressants don’t play a significant role in curing depression. Antidepressants are the modern snake oil. One day we’ll all wake up and realize that reductionist medicine and funny little pills don’t solve life’s complex social, behavioral, and situational challenges.

Bolded emphasis mine. Leah has a more measured response here.
I don’t have an MD, but I’ve stopped being shocked when doctors make stupid statements, no matter how they’re qualified. There are simply too many peer-reviewed links on the internet to throw back at these kinds of claims.
We know the relative efficacy. We know it’s not a cure-all. We know people are overdiagnosed with depression. But don’t tell me it’s snake oil, because snake oil is not evidence-based medicine; anti-depressants are.
I have a name for people who tell me anti-depressants are useless and exercise is better. I call them Tom Cruise.

jayparkinsonmd: ilovecharts

CureTogether and PatientsLikeMe are cranking out some interesting data findings right now. Notice that antidepressants don’t play a significant role in curing depression. Antidepressants are the modern snake oil. One day we’ll all wake up and realize that reductionist medicine and funny little pills don’t solve life’s complex social, behavioral, and situational challenges.

Bolded emphasis mine. Leah has a more measured response here.

I don’t have an MD, but I’ve stopped being shocked when doctors make stupid statements, no matter how they’re qualified. There are simply too many peer-reviewed links on the internet to throw back at these kinds of claims.

We know the relative efficacy. We know it’s not a cure-all. We know people are overdiagnosed with depression. But don’t tell me it’s snake oil, because snake oil is not evidence-based medicine; anti-depressants are.

I have a name for people who tell me anti-depressants are useless and exercise is better. I call them Tom Cruise.

vegansaurus:

As a vegan, there are few things more nails-on-chalkboard grating than hearing yet another word or phrase invented by green-minded omnivores to feel better about themselves for eating meat. If you call yourself a “pescatarian” or “flexitarian,” unless you can point me to the pesctable and flexifruit aisles of the produce section (and no, Monsanto gene-splicing doesn’t count), you’re really just a meat-eater appropriating vegetarianism to latch onto some kind of perceived moral credibility.

It’s not perceived moral credibility, it’s moral credibility, full stop. Vegetarianism can have a spectrum of motives. They can be political or ethical or just plain health concerns. You don’t get a veto over my choices just because the north of your moral compass doesn’t align with mine. 
As one ex-Vice President is fond of saying, global warming is a moral issue. My locally farmed rainbow trout is a world away from the CO2 debt of a steak and you damn well know it. Less Angus t-bone. Moral credibility.
The First Lady tells me there’s an obesity problem and that we owe it to ourselves and our children to eat right. Fewer cheeseburgers. Moral credibility. 
You want to reduce the debate to animal rights? Fine. I think they’re food and you don’t. Agree to disagree. But your criteria don’t invalidate mine. And if you’re going to throw elbows, please take care to spell “pescetarian” correctly.
UPDATE! 
squashed:

I think he did spell “Pescatarian” correctly. And I’d be angry too if people kept making up poorly spelled analogs of real words.

Conceded. It’s a variant.

vegansaurus:

As a vegan, there are few things more nails-on-chalkboard grating than hearing yet another word or phrase invented by green-minded omnivores to feel better about themselves for eating meat. If you call yourself a “pescatarian” or “flexitarian,” unless you can point me to the pesctable and flexifruit aisles of the produce section (and no, Monsanto gene-splicing doesn’t count), you’re really just a meat-eater appropriating vegetarianism to latch onto some kind of perceived moral credibility.

It’s not perceived moral credibility, it’s moral credibility, full stop. Vegetarianism can have a spectrum of motives. They can be political or ethical or just plain health concerns. You don’t get a veto over my choices just because the north of your moral compass doesn’t align with mine. 

As one ex-Vice President is fond of saying, global warming is a moral issue. My locally farmed rainbow trout is a world away from the CO2 debt of a steak and you damn well know it. Less Angus t-bone. Moral credibility.

The First Lady tells me there’s an obesity problem and that we owe it to ourselves and our children to eat right. Fewer cheeseburgers. Moral credibility. 

You want to reduce the debate to animal rights? Fine. I think they’re food and you don’t. Agree to disagree. But your criteria don’t invalidate mine. And if you’re going to throw elbows, please take care to spell “pescetarian” correctly.

UPDATE! 

squashed:

I think he did spell “Pescatarian” correctly. And I’d be angry too if people kept making up poorly spelled analogs of real words.

Conceded. It’s a variant.

aneclairtoremember:

Scott Jurek is an inspiration.  Not only is he arguably the greatest ultra-marathon runner, he is vegan.  Vegetarian and vegan athletes get a lot of flak for their personal choices, but Scott proves his plant-based diet is healthy and sustainable. 


themattsmith:

Hey, I love vegans.
In fact, hey everyone:  Stop eating all of my meat!  You need to make healthier life choices, so that I may have all the meat!  I will support your decision to not eat any of the meat, as long as I can have all of your meat.
Yay, vegans!

aneclairtoremember:

Scott Jurek is an inspiration.  Not only is he arguably the greatest ultra-marathon runner, he is vegan.  Vegetarian and vegan athletes get a lot of flak for their personal choices, but Scott proves his plant-based diet is healthy and sustainable. 

themattsmith:

Hey, I love vegans.

In fact, hey everyone:  Stop eating all of my meat!  You need to make healthier life choices, so that I may have all the meat!  I will support your decision to not eat any of the meat, as long as I can have all of your meat.

Yay, vegans!

You’ve got to be kidding me.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

This is a normal body. I don’t know what everyone’s freaking out about.

This is a normal body. I don’t know what everyone’s freaking out about.