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