Food Addiction Takes Center Stage

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Everything you know is wrong, including the fact that everything you know is wrong.

It used to be said that advertisers should be able to get by, spending only half as much, because 50 percent of all advertising is wasted. Only problem — nobody knew which was the wasted half. (This was before the exquisite market-targeting capabilities of the Internet, of course.)

Life is like that too. It’s only common sense, and part of the very nature of things. Of the sum total of everything we think we know, at any given moment, a hefty proportion of it is bound to be incorrect. Problem is — and you might have guessed it — sometimes it’s difficult to know what information is valid. And sometimes, different things are valid at different times, for different people. Plus, about a million other variables. Sigh.

Take exercise, for instance. ScienceDaily reports on a study from Britain, where childhood diabetes researchers at the Peninsula Medical School have found that a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t really contribute to overweight in kids. In other words,

[…P]hysical activity has little if any role to play in the obesity epidemic among children.

Say what? The article goes on to state that the children in the study lost, on average, three ounces in three years. The researchers conclude that the popular paradigm is wrong, or at least not always right. We have become used to thinking that inactivity leads to fatness. They’re saying maybe fatness leads to inactivity. The evidence was published in Archives of Disease in Childhood:

Physical activity had no impact on weight change, but weight clearly led to less activity.

What this means is, we can mandate physical education programs in schools until hell freezes over, and it’s not going to help. Unless you consider losing once ounce per year a good outcome. This is, as Dr. Pretlow puts it, of tectonic importance. It also confirms the firsthand experiences of kids, that he has collected in Overweight: What Kids Say. Dr. Pretlow says,

First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign to eradicate the childhood obesity epidemic is predicated upon the belief that sedentary lifestyle in kids is in large part responsible for the epidemic. The study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood refutes that premise and would seem to take much of the wind out of Ms. Obama’s sails.

No one is suggesting that physical activity isn’t important for children. It banishes depression, benefits the cardiovascular system, increases self-confidence, helps them cope with the boring sit-stillness of classes, and bestows myriad other benefits. Exercise is great, but the right time to deal with childhood obesity is at the ingestion stage.

Once the eating has been done, it’s too late, and no amount of calisthenics can undo the harm. The study indicates that the focus must shift to what children consume, how much of it, and why. Those questions lead inexorably to the need to look at another new paradigm: food as an addictive substance, which is abused like any other addictive substance.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Inactivity ‘No Contributor’ to Childhood Obesity Epidemic, New Report Suggests,” ScienceDaily, 07/08/10
Image by planetc1, used under its Creative Commons license.

0 Responses

  1. I’ve always thought they got the health “scientists” got the cart before the horse, but calling fat people lazy and if they’d just get off their ass and exercise, is a lot simpler paradigm than teasing out all the cultural and social not to mention biological factors that cause obesity.

    I don’t know what I believe about obesity, scientific or cultural. Noone can explain why big fat Bavarians and Samoans live to a ripe old age, while other overweight people die young. But they also can’t explain why thin people also die young, somehow those stats don’t get collected. Doctors are dumbfounded that my resting heart rate is 64, my bp is 120/80, my cholesterol is 129, my LDL is great, my triglicerides superb and I”m a hundred or more lbs overweight. What can I say? Maybe some people are hum-vees and some people are VW Bugs and there IS no “right” body type… duh.

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources