Why we can’t stop eating unhealthy foods | Laura Schmidt

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Why we can't stop eating unhealthy foods | Laura Schmidt (Summary)

 

 

Laura Schmidt is a professor of health policy in the school of medicine at UCSF. At no time in human history has our species been so bombarded by stuff designed to get us hooked. Food corporations hire scientists to engineer the most irresistible habit-forming foods. When you live in a world that is surrounding you with food products scientifically engineered to be habit-forming,
do you really have freedom of choice? Most addictive substances are quite safe in their natural form. The heroine comes from poppy seeds. Cocaine from the coca plant. Things do get really bad when we industrialize the coca production process. That's when the humble coca leaf becomes the lethally addictive drug we know as “crack”. Up until the 20th century, cocaine was actually an innocent white powder. Just like sugar is today.

People put it in cough syrup and gave it to their kids. Coca-Cola took the cocaine out of the coke. Of course, they just replaced it with a different addictive substance, namely caffeine. As long as food corporations aren't breaking narcotics laws, they can do pretty much whatever they want to formulate their products to make them, even more, habit forming.

Type 2 diabetes is linked to heavy sugar consumption and especially sugary drinks. Today, one out of four American teenagers is pre-diabetic or diabetic. The diagnosis “Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease” didn't even exist until 1980 – again, a condition linked to heavy sugar consumption and poor diet. Our food supply is making some of us very sick.

Here's the good news – the solutions to this situation are easily within our reach. Food companies have gotten very good at seducing us towards their products. It's simple. We just flip the script back. Soda companies, they intentionally keep their prices down so that we'll buy more. If we put a tax on the soda that raises the price a little and gently nudges us away. If they pay grocery
stores to put candy at eye level for our little children, we can put it a little higher on the shelf.

Small changes can add up to big shifts in the environment. We know this from decades of research on addictive substances. We can re-rig this environment to make it safe. It's not about personal choice anymore. It's about our public choice.

 

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