The Chicago Tribune reported on the addictive effects of snacks as part of a series on current causes of obesity.
According to the article, “Moments after a person eats an Oreo or any other sweet, the brain’s pleasure centers release opiatelike compounds–chemical cousins of morphine. The result bears similarities to addiction, though many researchers say it is more like turning on a built-in craving.” (THE OREO, OBESITY AND US: PART 1 OF 3, Craving the cookie, by Jeremy Manier, Patricia Callahan and Delroy Alexander, August 21, 2005).
We’ve always understood that there is a connection between food and addiction, but the article sheds new light on the way companies have capitalized on addictive tendencies to market food products. Sure, Oreos like many other snacks are tasty, but they also have long-term consequences.
The article continues: “In a brain-scan study last year, scientists found that the thought and sight of ice cream set off the same neurological pleasure centers in healthy subjects as the images of crack pipes did for drug addicts.”
Companies defend by pointing out that consumers have to take responsibility for their choices. This is a kind of “assumption of risk” argument that physicians have made in malpractice cases involving complementary and integrative medical therapies. The truth probably lies in between — there is individual responsibility for choices that create obesity, and the culture itself is preying on human weaknesses, thus perpetuating and enlarging existing social dilemmas. Fears of liability, however, prevent corporate spokespersons from overly admitting culpability.
The studies though don’t lie: they show the correlation between nutritional extravagance and addiction.