Friday Quiz: Why Do We Overeat?   (May 1, 2009)

Q: Why Do We Overeat?

A: Because the packaged foods we eat are designed to trigger the reward centers in our brains, much like crack cocaine.

Former FDA director David Kessler recently published his study of this pressing question, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.

Here is an excerpt from an interview he gave the Wall Street Journal:

WSJ: There is a lot of concern about obesity and children. What is the biggest cause? It is portions that are too large, or the wrong types of food?

Dr. Kessler: They are getting huge portions of very stimulating foods, hyper-palatable foods. You have huge portions of sugar, fat and salt. Every time they eat those foods it strengthens their neuro-circuitry to eat that food again. It activates them. Once these cues are laid down, and the information is in your brain, it stays there and drives behavior. This isn't a disease. But we've been captured by these stimuli. In the past, it allowed us to survive. Now we have health consequences because it's available 24/7 and we've added the emotional gloss of advertising.

Correspondent Kevin M. sent in this insightful comment regarding yesterday's entry Housing: the Steeplechase Analogy:

Having been in the mortgage business since the early 1980s, I can testify that all that you wrote today is true, down to the timelines.

One thing I'd like to add however is that the fact that there were 3.75 million more buyers than would have qualified under pre-1994 guidelines understates the scope of the problem. On top of that number were many millions more who were in a position to buy or equity extract with far more mortgage money than would have been the case before 1994.

The impact of no-income and stated income loans by themselves have probably been responsible for more underwater homeowners than first time home buyer leniency. Then we can add interest only loans, down payment assistance, low and no down loans for high end buyers and the home-equity-lines-for-everybody program and see that the problem is so much more pervasive than we're being told.

The entire mortgage give away was entirely dependent upon perpetually rising house prices. The dissappearance of that inflation is the major cause for the meltdown. That can't be fixed by more bailouts and homeowner credits and subsidies, not the least of which since it was all that juicing of the system that got us into this mess in the first place.

The fact that politicians and industry leaders keep hawking more bailouts is de facto evidence that they still don't get it. We're going down for the ride on this one.

Thank you, Kevin.

Looking for something new to read? Scan these recent additions to our "recommended" list: (Many recommended by other readers)

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite

Dark Age Ahead Jane Jacob

Coercion Douglas Ruskoff

The Limits to Capital, New Edition (an explication of Marx's Capital)

It's a Long Road to a Tomato: Tales of an Organic Farmer Who Quit the Big City for the (Not So) Simple Life

Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air

I Will Bear Witness 1942-1945: A Diary of the Nazi Years

The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too

The Predators' Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham and the Rise of the Junk Bond Raiders

Our previous list of hot reading (check them out at your local library if you don't want to own a copy) can be found at Books and Films

"This guy is THE leading visionary on reality. He routinely discusses things which no one else has talked about, yet, turn out to be quite relevant months later."
--Walt Howard, commenting about CHS on another blog.

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