More Evidence of Fatty Food Addition

Professor John F. Banzhaf III | 11/06/03

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May Provide Basis for Fast Food Legal Liability for Failure to Warn

Editor's Note: It's sad that rats are suffering in order to demonstrate what is already patently obvious - humans are in denial about their bad diets. Neal Barnard MD of PCRM has already demonstrated much of the info below in his Breaking the Food Seduction book, without using animal experimentation. The food industry-funded American Dietetic Association tells us "There are no bad foods." The corporate-funded "personal responsibility" groups tell us "You can eat whatever you want, you just have to control yourself." The effectiveness of the advice corporate America gives us, through its apologist like the ADA and the federal government, is evident on every corner - a fatter and sicker America.

August 5, 2005 -- A new study just published in the Journal of Nutrition provides more evidence of how eating fatty foods produces addictive effects in the brain in much the same way as nicotine. AND

Essentially the study shows that rats fed a high-fat diet undergo hormonal changes and start not to respond to the body's signals of satiety. They then go on to eat unusual and unhealthy amounts of fattening foods which further increases the addictive effect.

"Rats fed a high-fat diet don't then continue to overeat because they suddenly lack 'personal responsibility' or rat will power, or because they become couch potatoes, watch television, or play rat video games. They continue to overeat and become obese because high-fat foods have caused a hormonal change in their body which causes a biological compulsion to overeat - virtually the definition of an addictive response," says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

Banzhaf, whose law students put together the first of six successful fat law suits, and who served as advisor on the seventh fat law suit recently reinstated by a unanimous U.S. Court of Appeals, said that this new study brings us one step closer to the day a fast food chain will be sued for failing to disclose and warn patrons about the possible addictive effects of its products, just as cigarette companies paid dearly for failing to disclose how their products produced addictive effects on smokers..

Banzhaf notes that an ever expanding body of evidence shows that fattening foods can have an addictive effect upon both human and animals, and that more and more scientific and respectable lay publications are reporting it. For example:

At least two respected scientific publications, and more than a dozen mainstream media outlets, have now reported that food addiction is real and plays an important role in causing obesity. This could have important implications for fat law suits against fast food companies, says Banzhaf, whose law students helped bring the first of five successful fat law suits, and who has emerged as a leading spokesman for the new movement. SEE AND especially

Fattening foods can be addictive in the same way as nicotine or even heroin, says PSYCHOLOGY TODAY magazine, citing the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], and joining many other mainstream media in reporting this finding.

Fattening foods can be addictive in the same way as nicotine or even heroin, says PSYCHOLOGY TODAY magazine, citing the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], and joining many other mainstream media in reporting this finding.

In "Addiction and Pleasure: A Radical New View," the December 2004 issue of PSYCHOLOGY TODAY reports, after discussing how addicts "enjoy the rush of addictive drugs," that "obesity may involve similar malfunctions in the dopamine systems. . . . Like addicts, overeaters may be compensating for a sluggish dopamine system by turning to the one thing that gets their neurons pumping."

Earlier, the British science magazine NEW SCIENTIST reported that "there is a growing body of evidence" that "fats and simple sugars can act on the brain the same way as nicotine and heroin." It reports on numerous experiments in which lab animals addicted to fattening foods suffered withdrawal symptoms, how chemicals in the brain can be altered to create or cure obesity, how the brains of human addicts react the same way to drugs as the brains of the morbidly obese, how baby rats fed fattening foods virtually always grow up to be fat adults, etc.

PSYCHOLOGY TODAY also reported: "It's a mark of changing times -- and more sophisticated science -- that the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse is thinking about doughnuts as well as heroin. Just as blaming drug addiction on moral weakness was a short sighted and unscientific way of framing a social problem, [NIDA head] Volkow believes that focusing solely on metabolism, or blaming fat people for overindulgence and gluttony, are intellectual dead ends. 'What motivates us to eat is clearly much more than hunger,' she says. 'We need to expand the way we think about eating.'"

PSYCHOLOGY TODAY is only the latest of many major publications to warn about the addictive effects of fast food; a clear indication, says Banzhaf, that the evidence is now strong enough to at least require a warning to potential consumers. For example:

* THE WASHINGTON POST has reported: "That chance observation has led to tantalizing new insights into the underlying reasons why some people overeat and have such a hard time shedding pounds, and the provocative question of whether food can be an 'addiction.' . . . Addiction and obesity experts stress that both problems are extremely complex and in all likelihood have multiple environmental and biological causes. But many experts agree that they appear to have certain intriguing similarities. 'What characterizes addiction is the compulsion: A person may consciously not want to take it anymore, but the drive is so intense the person takes it anyway,' said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 'That's what we see with cocaine and heroin. What's interesting is that in pathological overeating, you see the same syndrome -- a compulsion to eat an enormous amount of food.'" [10/7/03]

* In an article entitled "Are We Turning Our Children Into 'Fat' Junkies?," THE GUARDIAN states that "one in 10 British children under five is obese. Health experts blame sedentary lifestyles - and even bigger food portions - but new research suggests that a diet high in fat and sugar may trigger the same addictive cravings as tobacco or drugs.",9950,1058656,00.html

* REUTERS reported, in an article entitled "Chocolate Cake Addiction: It's Real," that "People who say they are addicted to chocolate or pizza may not be exaggerating, according to U.S.-based scientists. . . . The researchers scanned the brains of normal, hungry people and found their brains lit up when they saw and smelled their favorite foods, in much the same way as the brains of cocaine addicts when they think about their next snort." It cites an article in NeuroImage, A Journal of Brain Function. SEE:

* Similarly, CNN has reported that a "brain scan study of normal, hungry people showed their brains lit up when they saw and smelled their favorite foods in much the same way as the brains of cocaine addicts when they think about their next snort "

* Even the WASHINGTON TIMES, which editorially opposes fat law suits, reported on the growing evidence for one of the key legal theories under which such legal actions will likely be brought: In "Chronic Overeating Called an Addiction," the newspaper said: "Just as federal health officials defined obesity as an illness, researchers at the University of Florida say mounting evidence suggests chronic overeating may be a substance abuse disorder and should be considered an addiction. 'What's the difference between someone who's lost control over alcohol and someone who's lost control over good food? When you look at their brains and brain responses, the differences are not very significant,' said Dr. Mark Gold, chief of addiction medicine at UF's College of Medicine."

THE WASHINGTON TIMES continued: "'Food might be the substance in a substance abuse disorder that we see today as obesity,' Dr. Gold said. . . . Dr. Gold was an early proponent of the "food-as-drug" model. The medical community considered the idea radical a decade ago, he said, but many addiction specialists give it serious consideration today. He said the change in thinking occurred as a result of advances in imaging technology, neurochemistry and other fields that have enabled researchers to map rodents' brain pathways and show how food and drugs evoke similar responses."

* THE OBSERVER has reported: "New research suggests that a diet high in fat and sugar may trigger the same addictive cravings as tobacco or drugs".

* THE ADVERTISER says that "Snacking on junk food as addictive as heroin - food could be as addictive as cigarettes or heroin."

* THE AUSTRALIAN notes that "Scientists have found that high doses of fat and sugar in fast and processed foods can be as addictive as nicotine -- and even hard drugs. The research found that foods high in fat and sugar can cause significant changes in brain biochemistry similar to those from drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Once hooked, the researchers said, many people found it almost impossible to switch back to a healthy diet, often leading to obesity."

* THE INDEPENDENT (LONDON) said: "High doses of fat and sugar in processed food can be as addictive as hard drugs, according to scientists. Research has revealed that the consumption of fast food can trigger chemical reactions in the brain which can lead to overeating. It suggests that the biochemical changes caused by large quantities of fat and sugar are comparable to the addictive reactions caused by taking drugs such as heroin and cocaine It means many people find it hard to revert to a healthy diet after ingesting fast or processed food which often leads to obesity, according to scientists at the Rockefeller University in New York."

* THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH of London, in an article entitled, "REVEALED: FOOD COMPANIES KNEW PRODUCTS WERE ADDICTIVE," reported that "Multinational food companies have known for years about research that suggests many of their products trigger chemical reactions in the brain which lead people to overeat, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. Scientists working for Nestle and Unilever have been quietly investigating how certain foods, such as chocolate biscuits, burgers and snacks, make people binge-eat, thereby fueling obesity. . . . scientists working for the industry have said manufacturers fear they have created foods that undermine the body's abilities to control intake and are battling to find a solution. 'We have created a bio-chemical monster,'" one said.

"This growing evidence -- now being increasingly reported in scientific and mainstream media -- that eating some fattening foods can cause addictive reactions in the brain just like nicotine strongly suggests that there is now enough scientific evidence to warrant at least a warning about possible addictive effects," says Prof. Banzhaf.

He notes that the legal duty to warn or inform customers does not arise only when evidence of possible harm is conclusive and generally accepted by the scientific community. Rather, it occurs whenever the information might be relevant to a reasonable person making a purchasing decision. That's why, for example, we see many notices saying simply that "some evidence suggests that . . " or that "animal studies indicate that X might cause cancer," etc.

It is also the same reason that doctors must warn patients of even a remote risk suggested by a single scientific study, even if the study hasn't yet been replicated and/or is apparently contradicted by other studies or by conventional scientific or medical wisdom. In short, such notice is required to alert customers to the mere possibility of a risk so that they can evaluate the weight of the evidence for themselves and then knowledgeably exercise their own personal responsibility.

Banzhaf says that several courts have held that cigarette manufacturers may be held liable for failing to disclose that their products might produce addictive effects, even though the general health dangers of smoking were so well known as to be regarded as common knowledge. He suggests that food companies can avoid the same legal effect by posting warnings or "health advisories" about this possibility. He notes that McDonald's is already warning customers not to eat at McDonald's more than once a week (at least in France), and that Pepsico -- the largest manufacturer of what many call junk food -- is telling people to eat their snack foods only occasionally.

PROFESSOR JOHN F. BANZHAF III  Professor of Public Interest Law Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor George Washington University Law School 2000 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 200006, USA (202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418



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