News: General Press

Fat, Sugar and Salt make Junk Food, Addictive

Source: The End of Overeating by Dr. David Kessler by expandedbooks / Date: JULY 2009 / Category: General Press


In bygone days it was said that for those with Celiac disease in Mexico, that problems of attention deficit, anxiety, individualism, lack of communication and frustration in children could be provoked by excessive consumption of industrialized products with high quantities of sugar, additives and unsaturated fats, induced by the bombardment that happens through public media advertising, primarily aimed at this sector of the population, according to the warning of psychologists and representatives from the organization Power of the Consumer in Mexico.

Now, Jonathan Leake has published an article in The Sunday Times in which the former North-American commissioner for the control of food standards, argues that “junk” food like Snickers bars and ketchup are irresistible, and they are the same manufacturers who discovered that the optimum levels of fat, sugar and salt make them highly addictive.

David Kessler, former director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that the snacks, cereals and ready-made meals designed by food scientists can act in the brain's reward centers like tobacco and that manufacturers are looking to shoot a "point of ecstasy" when certain products are eaten, leaving one with desires to eat more.

“It's time to stop accusing people of being overweight or obese,” said Kessler. “The real problem is that we have created a world where the food is always available, and prepared to make one want to eat more. For millions of people, modern food is simply impossible to resist.”

In his book The End of Eating Too Much, Kessler quotes Heinz ketchup and the white chocolate mocha Frappuccino as examples of the thousands of modern foods that have been manipulated to stimulate feelings of pleasure.

A study conducted by Kessler with researchers from Yale University, using magnetic resonance techniques, demonstrated that around 50% of obese and 30% of those overweight had the inclination to so-called "excessive activation.”

“The correct combination of taste triggers a larger number of neurons and causes it to exalt more," said Kessler. The call to eat more becomes stronger, which motivates the one eating to search for still more food.  

In another study, scientists used rats to study how the different combinations of fat, sugar and salt trigger the release of neurotransmitters in the brain's centers of pleasure. The most powerful combination contains sucrose mixed with chocolate and alcohol, the same that is found in desserts such as tiramisu.  

Kessler said: “Many of us have what is called 'point of ecstasy’, the point at which we reach the maximum pleasure of sugar, fat or salt. When you add more sugar, the food becomes more savory until it reaches the point of ecstasy, then it becomes too sweet and the pleasure lapses. The same happens with fat and salt.” 

At the optimum point, food stimulates the appetite of many people instead of satisfying it, according to Kessler, who led the FDA from 1990 to 1997 and is now a professor at the University of California.  

The experts contend that such evidence showed the necessity to establish government intervention. However, at the beginning of the year when Gordon Brown announced the "Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives" strategy, he said: “There should be no doubt that maintaining a healthy weight should be the first responsibility of individuals, it is not the state's role to tell how people live their lives. "  

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