We only eat what we like: The Commercial Exploitation & Abuse of Pleasure
The only natural thing in a diet cola is the water – and maybe some of the caramel. The active ingredient is phosphoric acid (pH: 2.8); it will dissolve a nail in < 4 days. It washes calcium away from bones. [Wyshak et al. 1989; Wyshak et al. 1994; Mazariegos-Ramos et al. 1995; Guerrero-Romero et al. 1999; Tucker et al. 2006] To carry the concentrate, trucks must place the hazardous material card – just like explosives! Distributors use it to clean their trucks engines. But Coke and Pepsi have marketing and promotional budgets that exceed the GNP of most countries. With their collection of soft drinks, they are the major vectors for the perversion of taste, and subsequent addiction to the sweet taste.
Adam Drewnowski et al.  studied preferences and cravings for sweet high-fat foods observed among obese and bulimic patients, assuming that they may involve the endogenous opioid peptide system. The opioid antagonist naloxone, opioid agonist butorphanol, and saline placebo were administered by intravenous infusion to 14 female binge eaters and 12 normal-weight controls. Eight of the binge eaters were obese. During infusion, the subjects tasted 20 sugars/fat mixtures and were allowed to select and consume snack foods of varying sugar and fat content. Naloxone reduced taste preferences relative to baseline in both binge eaters and controls. Total caloric intake from snacks was significantly reduced by naloxone in binge eaters but not in controls. This reduction was most pronounced for sweet high-fat foods such as cookies or chocolate. No consistent effects on taste preferences or food intakes were observed with butorphanol. Hence, endogenous opioid peptides may well be involved in mediating taste responses and preferences for palatable foods, notably those rich in sugars and fat. Then, just remember these facts: ketchup at McDonald’s is much sweeter; it contains much heavier corn syrup. Only soft drinks are served. Vegetable oils “boil” the fries, and potatoes have a glycemic index that is much higher than sucrose. Based on several studies [Coluantoni et al. 2002; Avena et al. 2003], Bartley G. Hoebel, of Princeton University, could claim that Fast Food is “as addictive as heroin”!
Another major evidence came from Children’s Hospital, in Boston, MA [Ludwig et al. 2001]: D.S Ludwig and his group examined the relation between obesity in children –“the new American epidemic”- and the consumption of sugar/corn syrup-sweetened drinks. They enrolled 548 ethnically diverse schoolchildren (age 11.7 years, SD 0.8) from public schools in four Massachusetts communities, and studied them prospectively for 19 months from October 1995, to May 1997. They examined the association between baseline and change in consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks (the independent variables), and difference in measures of obesity, with linear and logistic regression analyses adjusted for potentially confounding variables and clustering of results within schools. They found that for each additional serving of sugar-sweetened drink consumed, both body mass index (BMI) (mean 0.24 kg/m2; 95% CI 0.10-0.39; p=0.03) and frequency of obesity (odds ratio 1.60; 95% CI 1.14-2.24; p=0.02) increased after adjustment for anthropometric, demographic, dietary, and lifestyle variables. Baseline consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks was also independently associated with change in BMI (mean 0.18 kg/m2 for each daily serving; 95% CI 0.09-0.27; p=0.02). Hence, consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks –and only that- is associated with obesity in children.
The evidence a contrario was demonstrated recently in the U.K. [James et al. 2004]: a targeted, school-based education program produced at 12 months a reduction in the number of soft drinks consumed, and was associated with a reduction in the number of overweight and obese children (-0.2% in the active group; +7.5% in the control group). Small changes in energy intake and output seem to have a major impact on obesity risk. The intervention in these six primary schools in southwest England was simple, involved no teacher training, and could easily be implemented by a health educator working in several schools. Schools can play an important role in obesity prevention in children.
Then, if sugar/corn syrup-sweetened, calorie-laden drinks are the culprits, why not switch to quasi-zero calorie sweeteners, e.g. aspartame? Again, the group of Marian Apfelbaum looked into the potential differences –and benefits- of aspartame drinks [Melchior et al. 1991]. Since it has been claimed that sucrose intake induces a rise in beta-endorphins, and in an attempt to discriminate between the sensorial and metabolic effects of sucrose intake in this process, the effects of two chocolate drinks were compared: one sweetened with 50 g of sucrose, the other with 80 mg of aspartame. Plasma beta-endorphin concentrations were more elevated after the aspartame drink than after sucrose or fasting, while insulin increased after drinking as much with aspartame as with sucrose. The authors suggest that the increase in beta-endorphin after aspartame-sweetened chocolate is related to insulin secretion in the absence of marked changes in blood glucose or with a direct effect of aspartame itself on beta-endorphin liberation. In other words, aspartame is potentially more addictive than sugar, and will increase the risk of obesity!
Another –growing – area of crass commercialism and depressing growth is the distribution of wine. One must not forget that the great appeal of wine is that it is a unique, distinctive, fascinating beverage and different every time one drinks it [Parker 2003]. But current industrial “winners” are fail-safe, technically correct, split-polished – in short, wines for fans of Velveeta® cheese, Muzak®, and frozen dinners.
For references, please see the previous articles, same title We Only Eat What We Like.
Georges M. Halpern, MD, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Sciences
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
E-mail: [email protected]