Hyperpalatable Foods: Science or Science Fiction? Part 2

Persuade Me

A lot of creativity goes into persuasion, as in advertising and marketing fast foods, and a lot of originality goes into efforts to deal with the obesity epidemic. A great deal of creative energy is found in the projects of Public Matters, an organization described thusly:

Public Matters is an interdisciplinary California-based social enterprise comprised of artists, media professionals and educators. We design and implement integrated new media, education and civic engagement projects that yield long-term community benefits.

Their short film “Persuade Me” is both excellent and disappointing. The official description says, in part:

In this video, a young man grapples with his fast food addiction in light of his recent diagnosis of Type II diabetes, while a verbal tug-of-war escalates between an earnest healthy food advocate and a slick mouthpiece for fast food companies.

The doctor tells the youth he is 30 pounds overweight, but can that be right? He looks more like 10 months pregnant. Here is the disappointing part. The doctor, of course, recommends healthy eating and more physical activity. There is not a whisper of a hint of a notion that anybody is looking at this youth’s problem through the psychological food dependence-addiction lens.

After receiving the diagnosis of diabetes, the protagonist drives through the “toxic food environment” streets of South Los Angeles, passing dozens of fast-food joints, the words of various advertising jingles echoing in his head. At a diner, he stuffs himself like the world’s most sloppily programmed automaton and lapses into a hallucinatory state.

Now comes the excellent part. The aforementioned “earnest healthy food advocate” is a girl from the next booth, wearing a shirt that depicts sky and clouds, and sunny yellow earrings and hair accessories. The “slick mouthpiece for fast food companies” is a girl from the booth on the other side. Her elaborate hairdo features thin braids coiled into horn-like protuberances. Her shirt is black, and her color accents hellfire red. Both young women make their pitches, fighting for the soul of the health-endangered youth. We are left to imagine the outcome.

Recently, Dr. Mark Hyman wrote a piece for The Huffington Post titled “Food Addiction: Could It Explain Why 70 Percent of Americans Are Fat?” He recalled a documentary called Super Size Me, in which the filmmaker eats three gigantic McDonald’s meals every day.

At the beginning of the movie, when he ate his first supersized meal, he threw it up, just like a teenager who drinks too much alcohol at his first party. By the end of the movie, he only felt “well” when he ate that junk food. The rest of the time he felt depressed, exhausted, anxious, and irritable and lost his sex drive, just like an addict or smoker withdrawing from his drug. The food was clearly addictive.

The information in Dr. Robert A. Pretlow’s audio-visual work, “Why Are Children Overweight?” was presented to the Royal College of Physicians in London. Included in it is the mind-blowing compilation of replies from kids and teens, defining the problem foods they find most irresistible, i.e., addictive (see Slide 50). We will be hearing more about this subject when Dr. Pretlow’s upcoming article in Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention is published. That piece will also include a useful overview of the current scientific literature on food addiction, which is not a large body of knowledge, although it has taken a big forward step with the recent Yale study, “Neural Correlates of Food Addiction.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Persuade Me,” via Vimeo, 2008
Source: “Food Addiction: Could It Explain Why 70 Percent of Americans Are Fat?,” The Huffington Post, 10/16/10
Source: “Why Are Children Overweight?,” Weigh2Rock
Screen captures from “Persuade Me” used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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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.

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