The news that made the headlines this week was research on lab rats indicating a similar reaction to Oreos as cocaine. Here is Brian Williams take on it from the NBC Nightly News:

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As Dr. Yoni Freedhoff pointed out on his blog, Weighty Matters, this isn’t really news: Are Oreos as Addictive as Cocaine, or is Cocaine as Addictive as Oreos? I can even point you to some books that contain similar information:

The headline and visual of the Oreo story, though, is compelling, so it’s easy to see why it made the news. I commented on the post at Weighty Matters that this is the kind of story that can create a light bulb moment for someone. Realizing that my overeating was akin to addiction led to taking the situation seriously enough that I made the necessary changes. Ending overeating seems like it should be easier than it is. Declaring the battle to be a recovery from addiction and identifying the pushers in my environment (on street corners, for the most part, in the form of billboards, fast food, and convenience stores) was the first step to success.

There were a couple of research studies accepted this week by the journal Obesity that were probably more news-worthy but didn’t show up in the headlines.

cover of The Complete Beck Diet for Life by Judith S. BeckEffects of sales promotions, weight status and impulsivity on purchases in a supermarket by Chantal Nederkoorn drew the conclusion that having low impulse control and being overweight makes it more likely that a person will respond to environmental cues, like sales promotions, by purchasing excess snack foods. The abstract doesn’t talk about interventions, but a number of things that I learned during my initial weight loss were techniques that increased my impulse control — I described the process more fully here: Reinvention — A Generation Fabulous Bloghop. I didn’t mention my single most important tool for impulse control in that post, however. Planning my food ahead of time (as suggested by The Complete Beck Diet for Life by Judith Beck) made all the difference for me.

A second study documented bias against overweight people among those studying to be health practitioners: Obesity Bias in Training: Attitudes, Beliefs, and Observations among Advanced Trainees in Professional Health Disciplines by Rebecca M. Puhl, Joerg Luedicke, and Carlos M. Grilo. This reminded me of similar studies reported in Clean by David Sheff that health professionals hate addicts. In the obesity bias study, 80% claimed confidence of treating obesity but 36% believe that the obese are non-compliant with treatment, meaning that at least 16% somehow manage to be confident while simultaneously believing that their patients won’t respond. I don’t think the health professional’s confidence will do the patient much good. As with the addicts in Clean, the whole system is going to work better when health professionals, and the rest of us, know that there are interventions that work, that there are specialists and researchers who know what those interventions are, and that very little successful treatment has anything to do with will-power or motivation.

I can’t remember the last time I had an Oreo. My tastes have changed so much now, that an Oreo doesn’t even sound good. A homemade chocolate chip cookie, on the other hand, would be worth the calories, especially if I could plan it an advance so it fit in well with the rest of my menu for the day.

new Weekend Cooking logoI’ll link this post up with Weekend Cooking tomorrow morning. Check the post at Beth Fish Reads for more links to recipes, cookbook reviews, and more.



Food Research News — 13 Comments

  1. So that’s why I’ve been craving Oreos! I can’t even keep them in my house anymore because I just can’t resist them. My problem isn’t so much addiction as it is habitual. Just this past week I’ve started to track my calories in to help curb my snacking and it amazes me how much I’ve been grazing thoughout the day. Although homemade cookies do sound good! 😉

  2. I’m surprised that people are surprised by the Oreo story. Sugar is extremely addictive. I rarely eat store bought cookies. If I’m going to splurge on calories, it has to be on something homemade.

  3. Joy, I don’t think doctors have a clue about how to help obese people – if they did they wouldn’t be so condescending and full of little lectures. They need to be educated about just how hard it is for people to deal with. Cheers

  4. We don’t have television feed so I never saw this story (thanks for sharing) but I know that you are correct about that Oreo. When you don’t have store bought sweets or soda or any of that lot then when you do taste it, it’s just not as good anymore.
    Interesting post!

  5. I don’t crave Oreos either at this point, but I think it’s because I’ve made it habitual – a sort of mantra that goes ‘turn down processed sugars, you could make something better than that…’ Your point about addiction and impulse control makes a lot of sense. It’s why I can’t get near chips anymore (because I don’t stop eating them once I start!).

  6. I know what you mean about identifying your “pushers”! I am frugal by nature, so passing up buying junk food while I’m out isn’t too hard for me, but it’s the “free food” at work and the stuff that’s already in the house that I find so hard to resist. It always seems to be someone’s birthday! I gave up candy in September, so that’s helped me with all the pre-Halloween candy on offer everywhere I go this month, and I stopped keeping it in the house. For trick or treat time, I’ll buy something kid-friendly that neither my husband or I like!

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