A recent article detailing the history of food addiction studies has claimed that foods dense in fat and sugar can override our appetite suppressing hormones, activate our neurological reward systems and prompt us to continue eating past the point of satiety. Paul Kenny, “Is obesity an addiction?,” Scientific American, September 2013. According to author Paul Kenny, a neuroscientist with The Scripps Research Institute, obesity in some cases may be caused “by hedonic overeating that hijacks the brain’s reward networks,” thus creating “a feedback loop in the brain’s reward centers—the more you consume, the more you crave, and the harder it is for you to satisfy that craving.”

Asking whether this cycle of hedonistic overeating constitutes an addiction, Kenny not only describes several studies that seem to highlight the similarities between drug addiction and obesity, but also explains important differences between the two conditions. In particular, he notes that “research overall indicates no one ingredient stokes addiction-like behaviors,” adding that “the difference in obesity… is that modern high-calorie foods can overwhelm our biological feedback networks in a way that other foods cannot.” “Still, compulsive eating and compulsive drug use seem to share obvious features, most notably an inability to control consumption,” concludes Kenny. “It is up to scientists to determine if these similarities are superficial or stem from common, underlying alteration in the brain. More important will be determining if the addiction model is useful. Unless it helps us design new treatment approaches, the debate is simply an academic exercise.”


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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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