The Endless Machinations of the Big Soda

I'll have a Coke please

Last time, Childhood Obesity News discussed how becoming accustomed to sugar-sweetened beverages at a young age is associated with a constellation of behaviors, like proceeding to consume even more SSBs than kids who didn’t start so young, watching more TV than those who don’t drink SSBs, eating more fast food and fewer vegetables, and even smoking more cigarettes.

We also saw how Coke, in cahoots with that other obesity villain McDonalds, came up with the concept of “supersizing”—selling the consumer an additional few cents worth of product in a bigger container for a disproportionately larger price. Conversely, the company has lately taken to pushing the idea that buying its produce in smaller cans (at a greater per-ounce price) is somehow a step in the direction of good health. The English language has a word for such crazy ideas, and that word is “ludicrous.”

More Sugar-Sweetened Nonsense

Is there anything good to say about soda? Not really. The most it can hope for is to be damned with faint praise. For instance, the organization Action on Sugar examined the composition of fruit juices specifically marketed to children, or to parents as being “lunchbox-friendly,” and found…

…more than a quarter of fruit juices, smoothies and fruit drinks had the same amount of sugar or more than Coca-Cola, which has 10.6g for every 100ml.

Well, whoop-de-do. Coke is an innocent flower, pure as the driven snow, just because some kid-oriented juice drinks contain comparable amounts of sugar. Not a very impressive endorsement! Low-calorie beverages don’t get a pass, either. A University of Texas study of people over 65 showed that the daily intake of diet soda made people’s waistlines bigger than those of people who consumed the same number of calories without drinking diet soda. Kathryn Doyle reported for Reuters Health:

Diet sodas are very acidic, more so even than acid rain, and the acidity or the artificial sweeteners may have a direct impact on things like gut microbes, which influence how we absorb nutrients.

If there is indeed a causal relationship at the molecular level, senior citizens are not the only victims. Such a basic situation would harm consumers of all ages, including obese kids.

The soda industry has also come up with a new twist which many critics call “healthwashing” and Dr. Pretlow calls “unbridled propaganda.” Last month, the British Journal of Sports Medicine published an article titled, “It is time to bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity: you cannot outrun a bad diet.”

While physical activity is necessary and useful for many reasons, “physical activity does not promote weight loss.” The authors referred to another respected journal, Lancet, which had reported that worldwide, poor diet now causes more disease conditions than smoking, alcohol, and physical inactivity combined. The authors excoriated Coca Cola for associating its products with sport and for spreading the word that a person can drink as much soda as desired, as long as the consumption is counteracted by exercise to work it off. But no:

Science tells us this is misleading and wrong. It is where the calories come from that is crucial. Sugar calories promote fat storage and hunger.

The authors declare, “The ‘health halo” legitimization of nutritionally deficient products must end,” and we could not agree more.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “More than a quarter of fruit juices ‘more sugary than Coca-Cola’ ,” ITV.com, 01/05/15
Source: “Drinking diet soda linked to a widening waistline with age,” Reuters.com, 03/18/15
Source: “It is time to bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity: you cannot outrun a bad diet.” Missouri.edu, April 2015
Image by Dustin Gaffke

Minorities, Economic Disadvantage, and Coke

Brush with Coke

Last time, Childhood Obesity News looked at some of the “collateral damage” (aside from the obvious obesity) the makers of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) inflict on the poor, including members of politically powerless minority groups: sub-optimal land use; air and water pollution; tons of packaging trash; and an increased need for dental care by those who can least afford it.

The experts who specialize in educational strategies and public policy are at their wits’ end trying to figure out how to counteract the destructive influence of Big Soda. One report points out that children who drink SSBs go on to drink ever-increasing amounts as they proceed into adolescence.

Consumption is higher among children and adolescents in families of lower income and education levels. Lower levels of exercise are associated with higher consumption of regular soda.

But getting less exercise is not the only lifestyle habit associated with high soda consumption. Kids who drink a lot of SSBs watch more television, eat more fast food, and smoke more cigarettes. So do their whole families. They also eat fewer vegetables than their compatriots who consume less soda.

In their marketing efforts, producers of soft drinks and fast foods go out of their way to target the poor and minorities. The headline, “Fatty Foods Pushed More On Latino Kids Amid Childhood Obesity Epidemic, Study Says,” summarizes the problem. The study it refers to, from the University of Arizona, found that…

…Spanish television programming for children is packed with more junk-food ads than the same type of shows in English… The research found 84 percent of ads aimed at Spanish-speaking kids promoted foods ranked in the worst of three food categories devised by federal health officials.

Fox News quoted Juliet Sims of Prevention Institute, who described how companies work very hard to hook kids at the earliest possible age, and added, “And they’re going after children of color even more aggressively.” Public policy makers take their cue from this, and recommend that efforts to curb consumption should also concentrate on these demographics.

They also recommend focusing on children under six, because the best way to prevent obesity is to nip it in the bud. With every passing year, obesity in an individual grows more entrenched, as the body and brain adjust to operating with horrible substances for fuel, and adapt to demand even more non-nutritive pseudo-food.

What Coke Has Been Up To Recently

Recently, the publicity experts over at Coca-Cola flooded the internet with articles written by “third parties who are seen as trusted authorities” who were paid to tout the appropriateness of a mini-can of Coke as an appropriate snack with which to celebrate American Heart Month.

The corporate hypesters play it both ways: supersizing is great because the consumer can be fooled into thinking it’s a terrific deal. But tiny-sizing is also wonderful, because the consumer can be duped into believing that small equals healthful. And guess what? Buying Coke in a smaller can costs more per ounce, taking advantage of the economically disadvantaged even more efficiently than before. What does this have to do with ethnic minorities? Hold onto your hat:

For Coca-Cola Co., the public relations strategy with health experts in February focused on the theme of “Heart Health & Black History Month.” The effort yielded a radio segment and multiple online pieces…

Those marketers don’t miss a trick!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Consumption Patterns of Sugar-Sweetened Carbonated Beverages Among Children and Adolescents,” Springer.com, 02/26/15
Source: “Fatty Foods Pushed More On Latino Kids Amid Childhood Obesity Epidemic, Study Says,” FoxNews.com, 05/08/13
Source: “Coke is a healthy snack: How company pays to get out that message,” Mashable.com, 03/16/15
Image by Mark Rain

Poor and Minorities at Coke’s Mercy

coke (cafeteria delivery)

Photographer Zac Zellers says, “Coca-cola discreetly delivers some coke to our school cafeteria in the humblest of ways.”

The U.S. government first contributed to the rise of childhood obesity by tinkering with the rules surrounding sugar production and importation, and thus its cost. As explained in great detail by Bartow J. Elmore for Salon.com, the government interfered again by introducing subsidies for agribusiness. These payments (to Big Corn in particular) stimulated the overproduction of corn, leading in turn to the almost universal substitution of high fructose corn syrup for traditional sweeteners.

By 2004, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, soft drinks containing caloric sweeteners were the “largest single food source of calories in the U.S. Diet.” By 2008, the annual cost in America of treating obesity-associated illness was estimated at an annual $147 billion.

Health consequences and their costs are only two of the evils visited upon humanity by sugar-sweetened beverages, including the industry ringleader, Coke. By 2006, more than 200,000 Coca-Cola product delivery trucks were polluting the world’s air. Soft-drink companies contributed more than their share to the depletion of the planet’s ozone layer, with all the refrigerators and coolers it takes to keep their potions at customer-pleasing chilliness. The nation’s landfills are choked with aluminum and plastic packaging detritus.

Supersizing – The Genius Idea of Coca-Cola

As if all this were not destructive enough, some genius invented “supersizing.” Yes, this atrocity can be attributed to an identifiable individual. Elmore describes the historic moment:

In 1993, a McDonald’s retail strategist named David Wallerstein first introduced the concept of supersizing. The system was exploitative, but few consumers understood the math. Coke found that people would pay a few dimes more for a supersized product, even if that larger serving contained just 2 or 3 cents’ worth of additional sweetener.

Not surprisingly, American diabetes statistics reflected this marketing trend. In the population demographic of 44-year-olds and younger, in only two decades between 1980 and 2000, diabetes doubled. Also unsurprisingly, this disease disproportionately affected members of minority communities and those of low economic status. These groups are also more affected in indirect ways. For instance, poor people and minorities have very little influence over such matters as land use, zoning laws, water rights, and other specifics that determine where huge processing facilities and bottling plants are built.

Soft Drink Companies Benefit From Pollution

The Central Valley of California has much in common with a third-world nation. The agricultural runoff from gigantic farms contaminates the local water supply with arsenic and other undesirable substances, and nobody seems able to keep the food corporations under control or make them accountable for their negative impact on public health.

In fact, the corporations get a two-fer. Because the poor and minority group members who live in these areas are leery of drinking the water, they consume more canned and bottled crap, such as the sugar-sweetened beverages sold by the very companies causing the problems. As the Center for Poverty Research puts it:

Without a reliable, safe source for drinking water—one that both meets contaminant standards and alleviates public perceptions of being unclean—poor families are either stuck with spending more of their limited resources on bottled water or resorting to soda and other unhealthy beverages.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Coke made us all obese: McDonald’s, high-fructose corn-syrup and the sick, super-sized strategy to make you fat,” Salon.com, 01/04/15
Source: “Filthy Drinking Water Is Driving Up Soda Consumption—and Childhood Obesity—in Rural Towns,” TakePart.com, 01/16/15
Image by Zac Zellers

Motivation + High Compliance = Success

Food Addiction in Children

Available both online and in the print edition of the journal Childhood Obesity is Dr. Pretlow’s paper, “Treatment of Child/Adolescent Obesity Using the Addiction Model: A Smartphone App Pilot Study.” As Dr. Pretlow says:

This publication signals another advance in spreading the idea of using the addiction approach as a treatment for child/adolescent obesity.

Among the ideas discussed is the concept of addiction guilt, which can create another of the pesky “vicious circles” that plague the struggle against obesity.

One topic very much on Dr. Pretlow’s mind is that of motivation. What does it take to get kids not only motivated, but inspired? Because fear, shame, and other negative emotional states don’t do it.

It used to be that adults could sigh and say, “The kids simply don’t understand the consequences that today’s obesity sets them up for, further on down the road.” But in recent history, more and more obese children and teens are facing present-day, real-time consequences in the form of disease processes that show up shockingly early in their lifespans.

Remember Davion in the film Bite Size? This poor kid had to take blood out of his finger and shoot himself up with insulin every day. If that isn’t a motivation to lose weight, what is? Well, in his case, the desire to play football was the big kick in the pants that got him fired up.

In the same film, we learn about how KeAnna copes with life. She was only two years old when her mother died, and motivates herself toward health by imagining it’s what her mom would want for her. For this vivacious yet sensitive young woman, honoring a departed loved one connects her with the necessity and possibility of honoring her own life. Her story is a perfect illustration of how the individuality of humans is a major barrier to the discovery of “one size fits all” answers. As Dr. Pretlow says:

Further research is required to determine the best methods for inspiring youth to engage in food withdrawal process.

Finding Motivation To Lose Weight

The behavioral addiction to overeating can be overcome by retraining the brain through the process of withdrawing from excessive food amounts. With the help of W8Loss2Go, the addiction-based obesity intervention program delivered through youth-popular smart phone technology, mealtime amounts are reduced by small increments. This part of the program takes place over 12 weeks.

At the end of the study, kids reported they were better able to gauge the correct amounts of food, and were less likely to use food as an emotional bandage for stress. They also reported increased self-esteem. The staged, incremental food withdrawal approach works and can be widely available to young people who are not able to spend time in residential treatment facilities, which is the vast majority of them.

The pilot studies also revealed that younger participants and males achieve better weight loss than older kids and girls. Success is even better predicted by one other factor: doing the work. Not surprisingly, when mentors rated how the kids did, high program compliance correlated impressively with weight loss.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Dr. Pretlow

Famous and Formerly Fat – Matt Mira

Matt MiraWriter and producer Matt Mira is renowned for his work on Attack of the Show, The Nerdist, @midnight, Tosh.0, Math Bites, and numerous other projects. He was also a fat kid who only survived high school because, he says, “I was funny and I played football.” He also suffered from sleep apnea.

Childhood Obesity News has explored many of the problems in the lives of obese children and teenagers, including sleep apnea. The relationship between obesity and sleep apnea is another vicious circle.

In sleep apnea, breathing is obstructed because of enlarged tongue and tonsils and fat in the neck, so the person’s sleep is uneasy and often interrupted. The broken and non-restorative sleep leads to more overeating. Something about sleep deprivation messes with the satiety hormones in the system, and the whole situation goes from bad to worse. Distressing as this is already, worse is yet to come. Mira’s story illuminated a detail that we had not mentioned. He says:

I was so heavy and my sleep apnea was so bad that I slept every single night on my knees, kneeling at my bed, because that was the only way to keep my airway clear. I’d put two couch cushions on my knees and just kneel like I was sleeping on a table. That’s how I slept for, like, a year. It was crazy, insane.”

At 460 pounds, he decided it was time for a gastric bypass. He describes having his stomach stapled to the size of an egg. There were a couple of good years, and by the age of 20 he got down to 330 pounds, but the efficacy of the surgical intervention only lasted for a couple of years. He describes how with such a small stomach, a person gets full amazingly fast.

But for Mira, that sensation of fullness did not act as a signal to stop eating. Many other forces also operate to make a person want to eat. Interviewer Alison Rosen said that, according to her understanding, “if you eat too much after the surgery you get sick,” and Mira replied:

You would, yeah. And you power through that and keep eating. Just power through. You put your head down and go.

That may be a good recipe for scoring a touchdown, but as a post-bariatric surgery regimen, there is absolutely nothing to recommend it. Next, Mira says he was inspired by Tim Ferris’s book The 4-Hour Body, and struggled on his own for a while, making some useful changes but no real progress. Then he hired a personal trainer who, as of last month, has been working with him for two years.

He learned to become “very conscious of everything I put in my body,” and compulsively keeps track of his caloric intake. Every day includes vigorous activity that varies between running, biking, and gym workouts. Presently he is at 230 pounds and says:

A lot of it’s muscle. The rest of it’s skin that I’ve got to get cut off at some point.

Motivation is a much discussed topic in these posts. Could young people be motivated by worst case scenario videos showing obese adults sleeping on their knees or having excess flaps of skin removed with a scalpel?

Mira offers enthusiastic words of optimism and encouragement:

My trainer always talks about retraining your brain and learning the new habits and stuff like that…There’s going to be a point in your life where you’re not doing what you used to be doing and this is the new normal for you…It turns into a thing where you find the healthy lifestyle and you start to love it.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “ARIYNBF 379 with Matt Mira,” alisonrosen.com, 04/05/15
Image by Gage Skidmore

Boredom as Stressor

bored

Stress triggers the fight-or-flight reflex, and it doesn’t even require a stressor as obvious as a pinched tail. Boredom is a little-recognized and under-appreciated stressor, which many children and adults intuitively self-medicate by chewing gum. The advantage of gum is that the chewer does not swallow very many calories. The price may be tooth decay, the disapproval of others, or punishment for chewing in inappropriate settings. The reward stems from the fact that chewing is a displacement activity that relieves stress.

Chewing food can encompass all the stress-relieving rewards of gum-chewing, and add hundreds of calories. Overeating, as we have seen, can be an addiction. Jacob Sullum took a second look at the research that made big news in 1998, concerning rats and monkeys that would self-administer cocaine in preference to food and water, until they died of self-neglect. Similar experiments were performed with other drugs. Sullum wrote:

But the animals in these studies were isolated from other animals, deprived of interesting stimuli, and prevented from engaging in normal behavior while tethered to catheters providing “an unlimited, direct flow of high concentrations of cocaine at all times at little or no cost” (in terms of effort)…Laboratory animals’ tendency to consume drugs to excess when they are bored and lonely has pretty clear parallels in human behavior.

An animal in solitary confinement, in an impoverished environment, with its consciousness bludgeoned by sensory deprivation, will take drugs or overeat, using food as a drug. This conviction is echoed by Andrew Hill, PhD:

If there’s lots of rat toys, and lots of other cute rats hanging out, they’re much less interested in becoming (cocaine) addicts. Only in the absence of stimulating enriched environments, do these sort of automatic behaviors take over.

Boredom and lack of ability to tolerate boredom (..) is often the biggest driver for problematic substance abuse.

For an easily assimilated account of the Rat Park experiments, see this “graphic novel” type of presentation by Stuart McMillen. Other research observing monkeys has shown similar results. Pieter Levels proposes that, in various ways, society has created many different versions of the deprived rats’ cages, and adds:

So it’s no wonder so many people flock to alcohol and drug abuse in the weekends. Daily life itself simply doesn’t offer enough stimuli to satisfy their brains.

The fact that boredom can be a stressor for humans is widely acknowledged. For instance, discussing sugar addiction, Eliza Barclay recommends taking the time to monitor exactly when food cravings are liable to strike. Once you figure that out, she says:

Then figure out what the cues are—like stress, boredom, emotional downers or the need for a distraction. In these moments when the cravings hit, pause and think about what you need or do not need to eat at the moment. Are you actually hungry? Can you fulfill the need another way, like taking a quick walk?

There are many additional ways to counteract cravings, all gathered together in one place by Dr. Pretlow’s W8Loss2Go smartphone application.

As the old saying goes, “A word to the wise is sufficient.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Research Shows That Cocaine and Heroin Are Less Addictive Than Oreos,” Reason.com, 10/16/13
Source: “JRE #629 – Andrew Hill,” JoeRogan.net, 03/24/15
Source: “Rat Park,” StuartMcMillen.com, undated
Source: “Our society is not in line with our natural reward systems, and alcohol and drug abuse proves it,” Levels.io, April 2015
Source: “Is Sugar Addiction Why So Many January Diets Fail?,” NPR.org, 01/09/14
Image: by Gregg O’Connell

 

Stress and Displacement Activity

Slide 19 Behavioral addiction eatingStress triggers the fight-or-flight reflex. Laboratory rats can’t flee, and have reasons of their own for not fighting, but they still want to feel better. Given the opportunity, they will take drugs or use food as a drug. For the most part, stressed-out children are also unable to flee. They can fight, but our society frowns on it, except under certain conditions.

Unfortunately, not every child has the opportunity to play football or swim or learn Mixed Martial Arts. With the advent of “helicopter parenting” and the dearth of “free-range kids,” youngsters often don’t have the same freedom to blow off steam as was enjoyed by earlier generations. The physical activity that has historically relieved stress is not as widely available to kids now.

Anxiety and emotional malaise can be channeled into video games, where imaginary violent activity can momentarily let a child feel like some hostile energy has been vented, but this is an illusion. Unresolved frustrations with the game can add even more stress. And again, some kids don’t even have video games. However, most children, at least in the developed nations, can lay hands on something to eat, and they do, leading to the astronomical childhood obesity rates of which we have heard so much.

Pain, Stress, and Eating

In the name of science, the rat in the picture on this page is experiencing the irritation of a paper clip affixed to its tail. For the full narrative about behavioral addiction eating, please consult Dr. Pretlow’s most recent presentation, “Obesity Treatment Using the Addiction Model.”

To make a long story short, some notable rat experiments have made use of both hyper-palatable, high-calorie food and boring generic rat chow. The paper clip-stressed rodents don’t even require a fancy menu. Even if they only have plain old rat chow, they will overeat it compulsively. This displacement behavior allows them to feel better.

Finding Serenity

Life can be better without resorting to the extremes of fight or flight, neither of which generally turns out well anyhow. Remember the request in the prayer that originated with AA: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The rat with the pinched tail can’t change his circumstances to end his problem. He deals with it by eating, which is a distraction and offers a pleasurable sensation to counteract the unpleasant sensation.

Now just suppose this rat had other ways to achieve serenity, besides eating? Better yet, suppose it could learn the skills necessary to remove the paper clip from its tail? Unlike rats, humans have other ways to quell anxiety, and can even learn techniques to get the proverbial paper clip off their tails so anxiety won’t be experienced in the first place. Some of the tools people can use are aversive stimuli, relaxation techniques, alternate behaviors, keeping hands busy while watching TV, trigger avoidance, boredom prevention, distractions, journaling, and distress tolerance. This is what the W8Loss2Go smartphone app is all about.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obesity Treatment Using the Addiction Model,” Weigh2Rock.com, April 2015
Image: Slide #19 Behavioral Addiction Eating

Accessible Treatment for the Symptom of Obesity

part of poster

On happiness scales, obese patients have rated their quality of life as being similar to that of cancer patients on chemotherapy. So why don’t they just stop overeating? Because overeating is not really the cause of their obesity, but rather the symptom of an underlying problem. What for simplicity’s sake we call “food addiction” is really overeating addiction, which is a hybrid of sensory and behavioral addictions. Certain foods tend to cater to one or the other of those two components.

Sensory addiction is sparked by high-pleasure, or “feel good,” food, which can ease negative emotions, which are stressful. The brain likes anything that can relieve stress. The behavioral addiction manifests more in excessive food amounts, and holds sway in nervous eating, with its repetitive mechanical action of bringing the hand to the mouth. Biting, chewing, and swallowing are all part of the allure, and of course those are also sensory experiences.

Sugar and Fat: A Dangerous Pairing

Researchers Adam Drewnowski and Eva Almiron-Roig wrote about the palatability or hedonic quality of food:

Sensory processes begin with the placement of food in the mouth, the fracturing of the food by the teeth and its dilution with saliva, oral perception of temperature and texture, and the binding of taste and flavor molecules to receptors in the oral and nasal cavities… A particular hedonic synergy is obtained by pairing sugar and fat.

They go into great detail about how fat, in particular, is received and perceived. It is the source of the smooth creaminess and moist tenderness that make some comfort foods so irresistible, but that’s not all—a different cooking method can make fat crispy and crunchy.

There is a point when sweetness becomes too sweet, especially for adults, though children don’t seem to mind. The point where sweetness turns to “yuck” is called the hedonic breakpoint. Fat does not seem to have a hedonic breakpoint, so combining it with sugar very effectively promotes overeating.

Successfully Treating Obesity—At Home

The interesting thing is, even if no one agrees that obesity results from overeating addiction, it can still be addressed with the methods that have succeeded in addiction treatment. Because we have to eat, abstinence is not the answer. We can’t quit food, but we can quit snacking, grazing, second helpings, and other bad habits that pile on the pounds.

Dr. Pretlow points out that only two existing programs really help with overeating addiction. One successful program is Energy Up, the other is Overeaters Anonymous. A majority—70 percent—of OA participants have reported losing weight by doing the work the program asks of them.

Residential immersion programs are the best, and they depend on forced food withdrawal combined with cognitive behavioral therapy. This is great for the very small percentage of people who can afford it. But how can medical professionals best replicate such programs in the everyday environment at an affordable cost? This question has been answered by the development of the W8Loss2Go smartphone app, which brings immersion program techniques into the reach of a person living normal life at home.

Learn more about these concepts by watching and listening to Dr. Pretlow’s new presentation, “Obesity Treatment Using the Addiction Model,” which recently debuted at the Obesity Summit in London, or taking a look at the relevant poster (a section of which is shown on this page).

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Chapter 11 Human Perceptions and Preferences for Fat-Rich Foods,” NIH.gov, undated
Image: Weigh2Rock

Up to Date with Dr. Pretlow’s Conference Presentations

2015 poster

Childhood Obesity News has been looking back at Dr. Pretlow’s presentations at various conferences throughout the years.

Let’s resume with 2011, when “Addiction to Highly Pleasurable Food as a Cause of the Childhood Obesity Epidemic” was the topic at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

In May of the same year, Dr. Pretlow spoke at the 18th European Congress on Obesity (EOC) in Istanbul. He talked about the process of becoming hooked and the ordeal of tolerance mode, when no amount of the substance or behavior is sufficient to fill up the inner void. As a result he was invited to return the following year, with all expenses paid, to the 19th ECO, held this time in Lyon, France. He spoke on the topic of “Social Networking and Obesity,” and told the group about how the W8 Loss 2 Go smartphone application can help.

In 2013, there was the European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK. “Compulsive Eating/Addiction Intervention for Obesity Implemented as a Smartphone App: A Pilot Study” is available online,as is the keynote speech from the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, “Treatment of Child/Adolescent Obesity Using the Addiction Model.” Childhood Obesity News also included a post about that event.

Dr. Pretlow just got back from the Obesity Summit in London, at which he had been invited to give a talk, “Obesity Treatment Using the Addiction Model” which now anyone can hear. The visual part of the presentation has a new look. The Q & A session (Slide #37) is particularly interesting. We also recommend the new, improved poster–the academic version of an infographic, which includes a mass of essential information in easily assimilated form. (Shown in miniature at the top of this page.) The main idea here is that what we call “food addiction” is really overeating addiction, which is a behavioral addiction.

In the presentation, Dr. Pretlow outlines the willpower “vicious cycle,” in which resistance to food cravings is stressful, so the person copes with stress by overeating, and then suffers more anxiety because of guilt and failure. He tells how, in a survey of 479 adults in the U.S. and Australia, half the respondents favored treating obesity as a type of addiction. Even if people do not agree that obesity results from overeating addiction, the methods proven in addiction treatment can still work. He explains the various features of the W8Loss2Go smartphone application and goes over the results of the pilot studies. At the finish, the pilot study participants were asked, “Did it get easier to eat less food over time?” 84.8 percent said yes.

Dr. Pretlow described this latest professional gathering as…

…probably the best conference I’ve attended in terms of networking. There was a lot of interest in our addiction treatment approach.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

2015 poster

Does Addition Cause Childhood Obesity?

[montage of junk food]

[montage of junk food]

This site covers the social, political, economic, and health impacts of childhood obesity. A common thread that runs through our site is the exploration of food addition. Food addiction remains a controversial topic; many are in denial it is even possible. Yet being an obese child is a major contributor to debilitating diseases and even premature death.

The Case for Food Addiction

Processed Foods and Fast Food
We are surrounded by hyper-palatable, processed foods. These foods have high combinations of sugar, salt, and fat. They may also contain chemicals that encourage repeated consumption. All of these substances can be interpreted by the brain the same circuits as alcohol and drugs. This combination can be disastrous for young brains and their development. (Do major food companies care? That’s another discussion!)

Read more about topics related this issue:

It’s Official: Food Addiction is Real
Childhood Obesity and GMOs
Sugar, Addiction, and Sugar Addiction

Politics and Regulation
The notion of “personal responsibility” is fair when discussing adults. But is it fair to assert that on children, or on addicts? Should we implement more legislation to protect our children? Where do we as a society draw the line? Or, do we need some other other approach, such as making our streets more walkable and bike able to encourage healthier lifestyles?

Read more about this hotly debated issue:

Whatever Happened to the Cheeseburger Bill?
How Effective is Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” Campaign?
Stop Federal Corn Subsidies to Decrease Childhood Obesity

Shame of Addiction
As a society we don’t talk about food addition in part because it hasn’t been formally recognized by the DSM-5 — although gambling addiction was recently added. As a society we still largely and collectively moralize addiction as a character flaw rather than a chemical dependency. We hope this site helps change that perception and provide empathy for children fighting with their weight. Unfortunately, fat acceptance can hurt, too.

Thanks for joining us. We look forward to your comments here.

Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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