I like food too much to go on some crazy diet. French fries are my favorite downfall.
If Holly had said “I like tobacco too much to go on some crazy detox. Cigars are my favorite downfall.” What would everyone say?
We would say Holly had an addiction.
Holly does have an addiction, as do a lot of people. Back before the lipid hypothesis got Government Backing without being proved, a lot of doctors–especially European ones–were investigating the possibility that starches were connected to obesity. As Hugo Rony, director of the Endocrinology Clinic at Northwestern University Medical School reported in the 40s, he had:
carefully questioned fifty of his obese patients, and forty-one professed a “more or less marked preference for starchy and sweet foods; only 1 patient claimed preference for fatty foods.” *
Dr. Rony actually had one patient, a laundress, who ate laundry starch by the handful. Not unlike one of the more famous episodes of Freaky Eaters, in which an enormous, obese woman is addicted to cornstarch, consuming something like 14 boxes of it a day. In the 60s, the “classic textbook” Human Nutrition and Dietetics pointed out:
In Great Britain obesity is probably more common among poor women than among the rich, perhaps because foods rich in fat and protein, which satisfies appetite more readily than carbohydrates, are more expensive than the starchy foods that which provide the bulk of cheap meals.*
The same is still true today, of course. If we grabbed 20 random Hollywood starlets and wives of world leaders and weighed them against the first 20 women who showed up at the local welfare office, I think we all know exactly who would win that contest. And of course the poorer you are the more likely you are to eat more starch. It’s cheap, after all. Not only in and of itself, but thanks to US Government grain subsidies, corn syrup and grains are about the cheapest food stuffs on the planet. One can only hope that during this government shutdown there won’t be any money to pay the corn farmers giant subsidies, and perhaps corn syrup will get just expensive enough to stop people from putting it in absolutely everything their kids eat. Just most things.
The addiction everyone has is a blood sugar/insulin addiction. In what way does starch cause addiction? Well, let’s ask Dr. Wilson, or CBS, or Medscape:
1. The most important reason is that constant overeating of carbohydrates destroys your body’s ability to control its own blood sugar. Even if you don’t get full-blown diabetes, you get weak and shaky when you haven’t eaten for a while. Did you think that was normal? It’s not. You can feel hungry after a few hours without food, but you shouldn’t be feeling light-headed and shaky by 10:30am. What is “overeating of carbohydrates” you ask? That’s what happens when you have a breakfast of cereal and skim milk, a two-slice sandwich with a piece of fruit for lunch, whole-grain pasta and a small brownie at dinner, plus a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. The fastest way to get relief for the unpleasant feeling is to eat starch or sugar. This only makes the problem worse in the end, but it is what everyone is drawn to. No one is at the office vending machines or in the office fridge at 3pm looking for some bacon.
Bacon flavored corn chips, maybe.
2. The release of insulin can be pleasurable to some people, as is the release of serotonin and dopamine. Medscape is the most enlightening here:
Participants…consumed, in a randomized order on test days 2 to 8 weeks apart, 2 test milkshakes that had similar ingredients, calories (500 kcal), appearance, taste, and smell. Participants were not aware which was the low-GI meal (37%) with slow-acting carbohydrate and which was the high-GI meal (84%) with fast-acting carbohydrate, and they reported no preference for either meal. Additionally, the investigators monitored participants 4 hours after the meal, when the individuals likely would be considering what to eat at their next meal. At that time, participants underwent a final blood glucose test and neuroimaging, and rated their hunger levels.After eating the high-GI meal, participants initially had a surge in blood glucose level that was 2.4-fold higher than after the low-GI meal, followed by a crash in blood glucose at 4 hours, the authors reported. They also reported excessive hunger 4 hours after the high-GI meal, Dr. Ludwig said…The investigators looked directly at participants’ cerebral blood flow using arterial spin labeling functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which allowed them to examine persistent effects of test meals. Results showed an 8.2% relative difference in cerebral blood flow between the high- and low-GI meals at 4 hours (mean difference, 4.4 ± 0.56 mL ∙ 100 g−1 ∙ min−1).Dr. Ludwig said that the difference was strongly significant (P = .0006), with “less than 1 in 1000 likelihood that the results were due to chance. Every single subject showed intense activation in the nucleus accumbens, the area of the brain related to addiction.”
[Note here: I had a man tell me this summer that the whole blood sugar spike thing was a myth, and that blood sugar only went up for “9 seconds” after a kid eats candy. I hated to tell him, but that’s just not the case. I don’t know where he got that, but doctors regularly advise people to check their blood sugar 1 hour and 2 hours after a meal or a sugary item, at which time they routinely find elevated blood sugar levels.]
Now, is this the same as addiction to heroin? Manifestly not. But is it a real addiction? Absolutely. As addictions go it is a relatively mild one. If we really exert ourselves, nearly anyone can say no to the fries, that piece of cake, or the M&Ms in the checkout aisle once in a while. I and many others have been able to simply stop eating grains, sugars and fruits cold turkey: though everyone goes through something called the “carb flu,” which is actually a form of withdrawal. In some people who are accustomed to eating enormous quantities of refined grains and sugars for a lifetime, the “carb flu” can be pretty intense.
But it is a real addiction nonetheless, and the evidence of it is everywhere for those with eyes to see it:
–Why is McDonald’s running new commercials with the tagline “What’ll you have with your fries?” As Michelle says, “Somehow [that Bigmac] doesn’t taste as good without a fry chaser.” Because it’s the starch everyone wants.
–If you wanted a low carb snack at a gas station, could you even find one? If you managed to find some pork rinds, maybe. But otherwise it’s aisle after aisle after aisle after aisle of pure sugar and starch.
–Have you ever heard anyone say: “I just couldn’t stop eating the steak”? I doubt it. Have you heard someone say something similar about doughnuts, brownies, cookies, fudge, cake, fresh bread, or candy? I’ll bet you have.
–When you go to a restaurant and they bring free bread, have you ever had the experience of eating so much of that bread that you later regretted you didn’t have as much room for your entrée?
–When someone is going to steal food from your plate, is it usually a slice of your steak or bite of your salad they want? Or 8 times out of 10 isn’t it your french fries or your pasta?
Which brings us back to Burger King’s new Satisfries. These came out a while back. They are supposed to be healthier for you because Burger King has sprayed them with a chemical–stuff like methylcellulose and hydroxypropylmethyl cellulose–to keep the fries from absorbing oil. That way they have less fat! Good for you!
In fact, they are giving the things away this weekend, in an attempt to get people hooked. It shouldn’t be hard. The more fat they remove, the faster those babies will spike your blood sugar. You wouldn’t want any fat getting in the way of your glucose absorption!
May I suggest you don’t touch those with a ten foot pole? They’re worse for you than regular fries, which are bad enough. If you absolutely have to eat fries, for goodness sake eat the regular ones. Better yet, find a burger place that fries their potatoes in lard. Then it’s practically a health food! Even better than that, fry up your own in lard. Best of all–avoid the starch altogether.
*Taubes, Gary (2007) Good Calories, Bad Calories. New York: Alfred A Knoff
Plato says he’s hungry
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