Remember Sally Satel the psychiatrist who has been debunking neuroscience humbug? Here she is again, her current target being studies that aim to prove that we are all helpless against the lure of fast food:
Over the past decade, the hypothesis that fast food and junk food can be as enslaving as cocaine has gained currency, and it ostensibly is supported by a flood of studies documenting neural changes in rats fed tasty foods full of sugar and fat. The argument dovetails nicely with the “brain disease” model of addiction popularized by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. The general idea is that once someone is addicted, “you can’t just tell the addict ‘Stop’ any more than you can tell the smoker ‘Don’t have emphysema,’” says Alan Leshner, former head of the NIDA.
In other words, “food addiction” prompts unstoppable harmful behavior. But this is just not true. Both humans (and rodents) can still be influenced by alternatives.
When there are no attractive choices, people will continue to choose drugs. Granted, when it comes to addiction, the word “choose” is fraught; no one chooses to be an addict or, for that matter, to be overweight. But they do choose momentary gratification or relief — which is rational in the short term, however self-destructive it is in the long run.
In other words, reason plays a role; uncontrollable brain circuits don’t just take over.
Such “evil Oreos” studies are, of course, welcomed by bureaucrats who are looking for an excuse to police food.
All that is missing from the thesis is the serious science.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose
2 Replies to “Are we (and rats) powerless against our urge to stuff ourselves with Oreos?”
The study just shows rat’s preference of Oreos over bland food. Cocaine and Oreos was not compared. If the test was carried out over few years comparing cocaine and Oreos controlling for various variables which would lead to choice of food,then the study would be valid. I have little regard for psychologists who have a long history of messing up with experiments and results because they hardly understand statistics and research methodology.
These studies are nothing but a form of publicity for Connecticut College. What they don’t understand is that they are making a fool of themselves.
Indeed – it was effectively a high school project. The kids that did it must be amazed by the publicity. At no point in the published material do they claim that we (or rats) are powerless against our urge to stuff ourselves with Oreos.