Modern Food Is Changing Our Minds As Well As Our Bodies

David A. Kessler, a former commisioner at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, says our favorite foods are making us fat, yet we can’t resist, because eating them is changing our minds as well as bodies. It’s something the producers of the disinformation® documentary Killer At Large also discussed, but coming as it does from someone with as much credibility and influence as Mr. Kessler in his book The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, perhaps we’ll actually start to listen to his advice, dispensed here in the Guardian:

For years I wondered why I was fat. I lost weight, gained it back, and lost it again – over and over and over. I owned suits in every size. As a former commissioner of the FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration), surely I should have the answer to my problems. Yet food held remarkable sway over my behaviour.

The latest science seemed to suggest being overweight was my destiny. I was fat because my body’s “thermostat” was set high. If I lost weight, my body would try to get it back, slowing down my metabolism till I returned to my predetermined set point.

But this theory didn’t explain why so many people, in the US and UK in particular, were getting significantly fatter. For thousands of years, human body weight had stayed remarkably stable. Millions of calories passed through our bodies, yet with rare exceptions our weight neither rose nor fell. A perfect biological system seemed to be at work. Then, in the 80s, something changed.

Three decades ago, fewer than one Briton in 10 was obese. One in four is today. It is projected that by 2050, Britain could be a “mainly obese society”. Similar, and even more pronounced, changes were taking place in the US, where researchers found that not only were Americans entering their adult years at a significantly higher weight but, while on average everyone was getting heavier, the heaviest people were gaining disproportionately more weight than others. The spread between those at the upper end of the weight curve and those at the lower end was widening. Overweight people were becoming more overweight.

What had happened to add so many millions of pounds to so many millions of people? Certainly food had become more readily available, with larger portion sizes, more chain restaurants and a culture that promotes out-of-home eating. But having food available doesn’t mean we have to eat it. What has been driving us to overeat?

It is certainly not a want born of fear of food shortages. Nor is it a want rooted in hunger or the love of exceptional food. We know, too, that overeating is not the sole province of those who are overweight. Even people who remain slim often feel embattled by their drive for food. It takes serious restraint to resist an almost overpowering urge to eat. Yet many, including doctors and healthcare professionals, still think that weight gainers merely lack willpower, or perhaps self-esteem. Few have recognised the distinctive pattern of overeating that has become widespread in the population. No one has seen loss of control as its most defining characteristic.

“Higher sugar, fat and salt make you want to eat more.” I had read this in scientific literature, and heard it in conversations with neuroscientists and psychologists. But here was a leading food designer, a Henry Ford of mass-produced food, revealing how his industry operates. To protect his business, he did not want to be identified, but he was remarkably candid, explaining how the food industry creates dishes to hit what he called the “three points of the compass”…

[continues in the Guardian]

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  • Tim, Western Australia

    I'm sure none of this story surprises anybody who reads the fantastic coverage on this site.

    A good read on the topic is In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. An eye opening perspective on what we put into our mouths.

    • tonyviner

      That's what she said.

  • GoodDoktorBad

    Crap in, Crap out. You ARE what you eat.
    What are you? ….. a Big Mac, a curly fry, a McNugget?
    Is there a golden set of arches forming between your rolls of Whopper flesh?
    Hmmmmmm……

  • mrtwilight23

    I'm sure Kessler knows that fat and salt have been wrongfully blamed for causing disease. But writing a book explaining how deleterious sugar and processed foods are to your health isn't very novel.

    The best read out there regarding diet is perhaps 9 years old and has never been refuted. “What if it's all been a big fat lie” from Gary Taubes. Google it. It's free to read on the NYTimes website.

  • Anonymous

    That’s what she said.

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