the binge-eating files » Junk food, fast food, UPFs

Latest studies on junk food, fast food, UPFs and binge eating, emotional eating, food addiction, weight, obesity and mental health

Scientists tricked our brains into craving ultraprocessed foods – and now people are fighting back  Globe and Mail (Jan 17, 2024) by Gayle MacDonald — Until recently I thought I was making wise choices about food. My cupboards are full of products touted as “natural, “healthy” and “organic,” with packaging that promises they are “low in sodium,” contain “no trans fat” and put “fibre first.”  Then I started to hear more about the hidden dangers of ultraprocessed foods (UPFs) and I thought I’d better take a closer look in my pantry and fridge. Turns out I’m not so smart after all. … more

US adults eat a meal’s worth of calories of snacks in a day. Study finds noshing provides little nutritional value   ScienceDaily (Dec 15, 2023) — Snacks constitute almost a quarter of a day’s calories in U.S. adults and account for about one-third of daily added sugar, a new study suggests. Researchers analyzing data from surveys of over 20,000 people found that Americans averaged about 400 to 500 calories in snacks a day — often more than what they consumed at breakfast — that offered little nutritional value. … more

Colombia passes ambitious ‘junk food law’ to tackle lifestyle diseases  The Guardian (Nov 10, 2023) by Weronika Strzyzynska – The Latin American country is one of the first in the world to introduce a health tax targeting ultra-processed foods. A new law in Colombia making it one of the first countries in the world to explicitly tax ultra-processed food has been hailed by campaigners and health experts who say it could set an example for other countries. … more

Dietary guidelines may soon warn against ultraprocessed foods   Washington Post (Nov 7, 2023) by Anahad O’Connor — The guidelines could change the way Americans view nutrition by focusing on how their food is made and what happens to it before they bring it home. For decades, the federal government’s dietary guidelines have urged people to eat plenty of foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein — while warning us to steer clear of foods high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat. But now, the scientific experts who shape the way we eat might start warning consumers against eating too many ultra-processed foods. … more

Can’t stop binging on fries and BBQ?   ScienceDaily (Oct 16, 2023) – People overeat and become overweight for a variety of reasons. The fact that flavorful high-calorie food is often available nearly everywhere at any time doesn’t help. Researchers have determined for the first time why certain chemicals in cooked or processed foods, called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, increase hunger and test our willpower or ability to make healthy choices when it comes to food. … more

Ice cream and potato chips are just as addictive as cocaine or heroin: research   New York Post (Oct 14, 2023) by Brooke Kato — Can’t put down that bag of potato chips? Science says it’s not you, it’s the junk food. Ultra-processed foods, or UPFs, are just as addictive as nicotine, cocaine or heroin, experts say — and more than 1 in 10 people are hooked. A new analysis of 281 studies across 36 different countries has uncovered that a staggering 14% of adults are hooked on UPFs. … more

Addiction to ultra-processed food affects 14% of adults globally, experts say  The Guardian (Oct 10, 2023) by Andrew Gregory — Report’s authors also estimate about 12% of children hooked and call for further research into problem. One in seven adults and one in eight children may be hooked on ultra-processed foods (UPFs), experts have said, prompting calls for some products to be labelled as addictive. … more

Scientists says identifying some foods as addictive could shift attitudes, stimulate research  ScienceDaily (Oct 9, 2023) – Scientists have published an analysis with a timely and controversial recommendation: It’s time for an international shift in the way we think about ultra-processed food and its addictive properties. … more

Artificially sweetened ultraprocessed foods linked to depression in women, study finds   CNN (Sept 20, 2023) by Sandee LaMotte, CNN —  Eating greater amounts of ultraprocessed food and drinks, especially if those items are artificially sweetened, may be linked to the development of depression, according to a new study. … more

Ultra-processed foods: the 19 things everyone needs to know   The Guardian (Sept 6, 2023) by Rachel Dixon — They make up 57% of the UK diet – and the risks are becoming ever more evident. Here is how to recognise UPFs and find healthier alternatives … more

The big idea: why we need a new definition of junk food    The Guardian (May 15, 2023) by Chris van Tulleken — Ultra-processed products now make up 60% of our diet – and they’re killing us. …Each year, more people die in America from illnesses caused by poor diet than were killed fighting in every war in US history combined … [and] even if you were able to calculate exactly how much fat, salt and sugar you were consuming in each mouthful, you would still be neglecting one vital determinant of health – how the food was processed. … more

The Link Between Highly Processed Foods and Brain Health   New York Times (May 18, 2023) by Sally Wadyka — Eating packaged foods like cereal and frozen meals has been associated with anxiety, depression and cognitive decline. Scientists are still piecing together why. Roughly 60 percent of the calories in the average American diet come from highly processed foods. We’ve known for decades that eating such packaged products — like some breakfast cereals, snack bars, frozen meals and virtually all packaged sweets, among many other things — is linked to unwelcome health outcomes … But more recent studies point to another major downside to these often delicious, always convenient foods: They appear to have a significant impact on our minds, too. … more

What makes ‘junk food’ junk?  ScienceDaily (Apr 27, 2023) – Study examines how three decades of U.S. policies define junk food for taxation and other regulations. How is ‘junk food’ defined for food policies like taxes? A combination of food category, processing, and nutrients can determine which foods should be subject to health-related policies, according to a new analysis examining three decades of U.S. food policies by researchers. … more

Many men have a problematic relationship with food – and I’m one of them   The Guardian (Mar 2, 2023) by Adrian Chiles — People often tell me that they don’t have an ‘off switch’ when it comes to drinking. I don’t have that problem, but it’s a different story when it comes to eating … more

One in eight Americans over 50 show signs of food addiction   ScienceDaily (Jan 30, 2023) — Much higher percentages of possible addiction to processed food seen among older adults who are overweight or experiencing poor mental health or isolation. Whether you call them comfort foods, highly processed foods, junk foods, empty calories or just some of Americans’ favorite foods and drinks, about 13% of people aged 50 to 80 have an unhealthy relationship with them, according to a new poll. … more

Highly Processed Foods ‘as Addictive’ as Tobacco   Medscape (Nov 25, 2022) by Becky McCall — Highly processed foods meet the same criteria as tobacco for addiction, and labeling them as such might benefit public health, according to a new US study that proposes a set of criteria to assess the addictive potential of some foods. … more

Processed foods key to rising obesity   ScienceDaily (Nov 8, 2022)  — ‘Protein hunger’ drives overeating, large-scale population study shows.  A year-long study of the dietary habits of 9,341 Australians has backed growing evidence that highly processed and refined foods are the leading contributor of rising obesity rates in the Western world. … Those who consumed lower amounts of protein in their first meal of the day went on to increase their overall food intake in subsequent meals … more

Fast food fever: how ultra-processed meals are unhealthier than you think   The Guardian (Oct 16, 2022) by Andrew Anthony — For a long time it has been known that diets dominated by ultra-processed food (UPF) are more likely to lead to obesity. But recent research suggests that high UPF consumption also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia and, according to a recent American study involving 50,000 health professionals, of developing colon cancer … more

What are ultra-processed foods? What should I eat instead?    Washington Post (Sept 27, 2022) by Anadad O’Connor — Ultra-processed foods are extra tasty concoctions that we eat every day. They are also linked with chronic diseases and a higher risk of early death. Is your diet ultra-processed? Is your diet ultra-processed? In many households, ultra-processed foods are mainstays at the kitchen table. They include products that you may not even think of as junk food such as breakfast cereals, muffins, snack bars and sweetened yogurts. Soft drinks and energy drinks count, too. … more

Are highly processed foods bad for children?   ScienceDaily (June 14, 2022) — A new study found that children ages 3 to 5 who consumed more ultraprocessed foods had poorer locomotor skills than children who consumed less of these foods. It also showed lower cardiovascular fitness in 12- to 15-year-olds who consumed more ultraprocessed foods. … more

Some fast-food items contain plastics linked to serious health problems, new report shows.  Washington Post (Oct 27, 2021) by Laura Reiley — Chemicals that research has shown to be linked to reproductive harm and learning problems in children were found in popular menu items. What’s in that fast-food burger? Sometimes, harmful plastics. A new study out Tuesday reports that far too often, small amounts of industrial chemicals called phthalates (pronounced THA-lates), which are used to make plastics soft, have been found in samples of food from popular outlets including McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Chipotle. … more

Americans are eating more ultra-processed foods: 18-year study measures increase in industrially manufactured foods that may be contributing to obesity and other diseases   ScienceDaily (Oct 14, 2021) – Consumption of ultra-processed foods has increased over the past two decades across nearly all segments of the U.S. population, according to a new study by researchers at NYU School of Global Public Health. … more

If You Think Kids Are Eating Mostly Junk Food, A New Study Finds You’re Right   NPR (Aug 11, 2021) by Xcaret Nunez — Kids and teens in the U.S. get the majority of their calories from ultra-processed foods like frozen pizza, microwavable meals, chips and cookies, a new study has found. Two-thirds — or 67% — of calories consumed by children and adolescents in 2018 came from ultra-processed foods, a jump from 61% in 1999, according to a peer-reviewed study … which analyzed the diets of 33,795 youths ages 2 to 19 across the U.S., noted the “overall poorer nutrient profile” of the ultra-processed foods. … more

The Capital of Mexican Cuisine Is Cracking Down on Junk Food   Vice (Mar 22, 2021) by Emily Green – The heart of Mexican cuisine is waging war against empty calories as the country struggles with an obesity epidemic. … The taste for junk food, in addition to increasingly unhealthy diets, has fueled an obesity crisis in Mexico. One third of kids are obese, and roughly 15 percent of the country’s population has diabetes. The disease is now one of the country’s leading causes of death. Mexican officials are trying to tackle the problem. In October, new federal regulations went into effect requiring warning labels on processed food and drink. … The state of Oaxaca has gone a step further, and last year banned the sale of junk food to kids altogether. … more

Unhealthy Foods Aren’t Just Bad For You, They May Also Be Addictive   New York Times (Feb 18, 2021) by Anahad O’Connor — Food researchers debate whether highly processed foods like potato chips and ice cream are addictive, triggering our brains to overeat. Five years ago, a group of nutrition scientists studied what Americans eat and reached a striking conclusion: More than half of all the calories that the average American consumes comes from ultra-processed foods, which they defined as “industrial formulations” that combine large amounts of sugar, salt, oils, fats and other additives. … more

‘We Had To Take Action’: States In Mexico Move To Ban Junk Food Sales To Minors   NPR, National Public Radio (Sept 14, 2020) by James Fredrick – Picture this: You’re 17, you walk into a corner store and grab a Coca-Cola and Doritos, but the cashier refuses to sell them to you because you’re underage. That rule is expected to soon become reality in parts of Mexico, as lawmakers in several states push legislation to keep junk food away from children, partly in response to the coronavirus pandemic. … more

‘Ultra-Processed’ Junk Food Linked to Advanced Ageing at Cellular Level, Study Finds   Science Alert (Sept 1, 2020) by Marlowe Hood, AFP – People who eat a lot of industrially processed junk food are more likely to exhibit a change in their chromosomes linked to ageing, according to research presented Tuesday at an online medical conference.  … more

How ‘Fast Carbs’ May Undermine Your Health   New York Times (May 7, 2020) by Anahad O’Connor — Comfort foods like chips and cookies can short-circuit our biology and accelerate the onset of diabetes and heart disease. In recent weeks … sales of “comfort foods” like potato chips, pretzels, pancake mix and cookies have seen a particularly dramatic surge. That may not be surprising: They are cheap, satisfying and shelf stable. … But Dr. David A. Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, has a simple message for people who want to keep their metabolic health and weight in check when temptation is just a few steps from their work space: Try to avoid eating foods that contain what he calls “fast carbs,” such as refined grains, starches, corn and sugar. … more

America’s junk food diet makes us even more vulnerable to coronavirus   New York Post (Apr 18, 2020) by Mary Kay Linge – It’s our favorite vice and our true national pastime: Here in the land of plenty, Americans love to overindulge. … About 75 percent of the $2.2 trillion we spend on health care each year goes to treat chronic illness, the Centers for Disease Control estimates. “And 40 to 70 percent of those illnesses could be prevented … more

What really happens to your body if you eat lots of takeaways?  BBC-Food (Feb 27, 2020) –  As 15 people nervously walk into a lab, they’re greeted by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University. They are about to hear what they will put their body – and taste buds – through over the next two weeks. They’re helping researchers understand the impact that frequently eating takeaways has on health – and they’re going to eat them twice a day for a fortnight. We see the experiment play out in BBC One documentary, The Truth About Takeaway.more

Why vegan junk food may be even worse for your health   BBC Future (Jan 29, 2020) by William Park – While we might switch to a plant-based diet with the best intentions, the unseen risks of vegan fast foods might not show up for years. … more

Data-driven definition of unhealthy yet pervasive ‘hyper-palatable’ foods  ScienceDaily (Nov 5, 2019) – New research offers specific metrics that might qualify foods as hyper-palatable — and finds most foods consumed in the United States meet these criteria. A popular U.S. brand of potato chips once promoted itself with the slogan, “betcha can’t eat just one!” Maybe that’s because potato chips, like so many foods in the American diet, can pack a mix of ingredients apt to light up people’s brain-reward neural circuitry and overpower mechanisms that are supposed to signal when we’ve had enough to eat. Researchers call this class of foods — often processed foods or sweets with alluring combinations of fat, sugar, carbohydrates and sodium — “hyper-palatable.”  … more

Why we crave junk food after a sleepless night. Blame your nose, which sniffs out high fat, calorie-dense food   ScienceDaily (Oct 8, 2019) – When you’re sleep deprived, you reach for doughnuts and pizza. A new study has figured out why you crave more calorie-dense, high-fat foods after a sleepless night. Blame it on your sleepy nose — or olfactory system. First, it goes into hyperdrive, sharpening the food odors for the brain. But then there is a breakdown in communication with brain areas that receive food signals. Then decisions about what to eat change. … more

Teenager ‘blind’ from living off crisps and chips   BBC News/Health (Sept 3, 2019) by Michelle Roberts – Experts are warning about the risks of extreme fussy eating after a teenager developed permanent sight loss after living on a diet of chips and crisps. Eye doctors in Bristol cared for the 17-year-old after his vision had deteriorated to the point of blindness. Since leaving primary school, the teen had been eating only French fries, Pringles and white bread, as well as an occasional slice of ham or a sausage. Tests revealed he had severe vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition damage. … more

Processed food is full of bad stuff, but the real problem is you eat too much of it  CBC Radio/Quirks & Quarks PODCAST (Aug 23, 2019) — A comparison of processed and unprocessed food diets showed people ate much more of the former. A new study seems to suggest that there may be something about processed foods that causes people to eat more than they would of unprocessed foods containing similar levels of fat, sugar, salt and other nutrients.  In other words, the problem with processed foods is not just the kind of calories they contain, but that they seem to change our normal eating patterns. … more

How processed food makes us fat   The Washington Post (July 17, 2019) by Tamar Haspel — For many years, I’ve steadfastly clung to a position for which there has been almost no evidence: Processed food is the root of obesity. This doesn’t mean that processed food is the sole cause. There’s also the ubiquity of food, changing social mores and what is probably a more sedentary lifestyle (though evidence for that, too, is surprisingly hard to come by). It also doesn’t mean that all processed food is bad. … more

More evidence that ultra-processed foods could harm health   MNT Medical News Today (May 31, 2019) by Ana Sandoiu — Previous research has suggested that consuming high levels of ultra-processed foods, such as packaged snacks and soda, could harm health. Two new studies confirm this notion and provide more evidence of the associated cardiovascular and all-cause mortality risks …. more

Ultra-processed food linked to early death   BBC News (May 30, 2019) by  James Gallagher – Ultra-processed foods – such as chicken nuggets, ice cream and breakfast cereals – have been linked to early death and poor health, scientists say. Researchers in France and Spain say the amount of such food being eaten has soared. Their studies are not definite proof of harm but do come hot on the heels of trials suggesting ultra-processed foods lead to overeating. … more

Heavily processed foods cause overeating and weight gain, study finds   ScienceDaily (May 16, 2019) – People eating ultra-processed foods ate more calories and gained more weight than when they ate a minimally processed diet, according to results from a new study. The difference occurred even though meals provided to the volunteers in both the ultra-processed and minimally processed diets had the same number of calories and macronutrients. … more

Comfort food leads to more weight gain during stress   ScienceDaily (Apr 25, 2019) – Australian researchers have discovered a new molecular pathway in the brain that triggers more weight gain in times of stress. It’s no secret that overindulging on high-calorie foods can be detrimental to health, but it turns out that under stress, watching what you eat may be even more important. A team led by Professor Herbert Herzog, Head of the Eating Disorders laboratory at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, discovered in an animal model that a high-calorie diet when combined with stress resulted in more weight gain than the same diet caused in a stress-free environment. The researchers revealed a molecular pathway in the brain, controlled by insulin, which drives the additional weight gain. … more

Here’s Why You Don’t Feel Full After Eating Junk Food   Huffpost (Mar 11, 2019) by Katy Severson – You can eat an entire sleeve of Oreos or a bag of Hot Cheetos and still not feel satiated. It’s because your body knows things your brain doesn’t … Studies show that satiety, the mechanism that stops us from eating more than what we need, has less to do with caloric intake than it does with the intake of certain macronutrients ― types of protein, carbohydrates and fat ― and the physical volume of food. … more

Bigger, Saltier, Heavier: Fast Food Since 1986 in 3 Simple Charts   New York Times (Mar 3, 2019) by Tiffany Hsu – Adding lighter fare like salads to the usual burgers and fries has meant more options for time-pressed diners. But the meals are largely less healthy now, a new study finds. Fast food chains have tried for years to woo health-conscious diners by mixing lighter fare like salads and yogurt with the usual burgers, fried chicken and shakes. But as menus swelled over the past three decades with grilled chicken wraps (McDonald’s) and “fresco” burritos (Taco Bell), many options grew in size and the calories and sodium in them surged, according to new study from researchers at Boston University and Tufts. … more

Thirty years of fast food: Greater variety, but more salt, larger portions, and added calories   ScienceDaily (Feb 27, 2019) – Despite the addition of some healthful menu items, fast food is even more unhealthy for you than it was 30 years ago. An analysis of the offerings at 10 of the most popular US fast-food restaurants in 1986, 1991, and 2016, demonstrates that fast-food entrees, sides, and desserts increased significantly in calories and sodium and entrees and desserts in portion size over time. … more

Foods combining fats and carbohydrates more rewarding than foods with just fats or carbs  ScienceDaily (Jun 14, 2018) – Researchers show that the reward center of the brain values foods high in both fat and carbohydrates — i.e., many processed foods — more than foods containing only fat or only carbs. A study of 206 adults supports the idea that these kinds of foods hijack our body’s inborn signals governing food consumption … more

Finding it hard to cut down on processed foods? Here’s why  MNT Medical News Today (Jun 14, 2018)  by Maria Cohut – We know that processed foods are bad for us, and that though they may be tasty, they do not bring us any nutritional benefits. How come we find it so hard to say no to those chips, donuts, and crackers? … more

Logo recognition associated with kids’ choice of international junk foods   ScienceDaily  (Mar 6, 2018) –  Young children in six low- and middle-income countries prefer junk food and sugar sweetened beverages over traditional and home cooked meals, according to a new study from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Researchers investigated the links between marketing and media exposure and the preference for fast food in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia. Kids who easily identified the logos of international brands were more likely to request and prefer the processed foods of low nutrition. … more

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads   ScienceDaily (Jan 15, 2018) – Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a new report. … more

Demonizing Processed Foods: It’s the Additives, Stupid  Medscape (Aug 30, 2017) by George D. Lundberg, MD – [It]  seems like everyone, including me, is down on “processed food.” Has that become a knee-jerk mantra? What is processed food? Is it always bad? Processed food is any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way, either for safety reasons or convenience. Cooking, freezing, canning, drying, and pasteurizing are examples—many quite healthy. Thus, “processed food” is not the demon. One must look at what the process was and, more particularly, what has been added. The answer is, a whole lot of stuff has been added. … more

‘Environmental entrapment’: Is the food industry conspiring to make you fat? National Post (Aug 10, 2017) by Sara FL Kirk & Jessie-Lee McIsaac – Our current food environment sets us up for healthy food choice failure. Yet when we overeat and gain weight, society is there to dole out blame and shame. … It is now widely accepted that we are living in a food environment that does not value health. This “obesogenic environment” does not provide a set of rules to ensure easy and equitable access to healthy, affordable food. And evidence is mounting that some foods, particularly those high in fat, salt and sugar, are not easy to resist. … Food addiction actually shares common brain activity with alcohol addiction. … more

Junk Science or Junk Food? Experts Debate Sugar Guidelines  Medscape (Dec 19, 2016) by Marcia Frellick – Guidelines on dietary sugar published over the past 20 years do not meet the criteria for trustworthy recommendations for reasons that include low-quality evidence and inconsistent advice, say the authors of a new review published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine. …more

Junk food shortening lives of children worldwide, data shows  The Guardian (Oct 7, 2016) by Sarah Bosely — Obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure at unprecedented levels due to spread of fast food and sugary drinks. Junk food and sugary drinks are taking an enormous toll on children around the world, with soaring numbers who are obese and millions developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure previously seen only in adults, data has revealed. … more

Sleep loss boosts hunger, unhealthy food choices   ScienceDaily  (Feb 29, 2016) – Cutting  back on sleep boosts levels of a chemical signal that can enhance the pleasure of eating snack foods and increase caloric intake, report investigators. It may be part of a mechanism that encourages overeating, leading to weight gain, they say. … more

The Strange Link Between Junk Food and Depression Time Magazine (June 29, 2015) by Mandy Oaklander – Some — but not all— sugars were associated with depressive disorders. Of our many modern diseases, one of the biggest burdens on society is an unexpected one: depression, according to the World Health Organization. And what we eat may be contributing, finds a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. more …

Does a junk food diet make you lazy? Psychology study offers answer   ScienceDaily (Apr 4, 2014) – A new psychology study provides evidence that being overweight makes people tired and sedentary, rather than vice versa. Life scientists placed 32 female rats on one of two diets for six months. The first, a standard rat’s diet, consisted of relatively unprocessed foods like ground corn and fish meal. The ingredients in the second were highly processed, of lower quality and included substantially more sugar — a proxy for a junk food diet. more …

5 shocking reasons why Americans are getting fatter. It’s not just the fast food…   Salon (Mar 13, 2014) by Martha Rosenberg of Alternet –Americans have become huge. Between the 1960s and the 2000s, Americans grew, on the average, an inch taller and 24 pounds heavier. The average American man today weights 194 pounds and the average woman 165 pounds. The growing girth has led to the creation of special-sized ambulances, operating tables and coffins as well as bigger seats on planes and trains. Almost a third of American children and teens are overweight, but 84 percent of parents believe their children are at a healthy weight in one study. Why? The adults are probably overweight too.   More …

These disturbing fast food truths will make you reconsider your lunch   Huffington Post (Nov 20, 2013) by Renee Jacques – McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell — which one are you craving today? … As of 2012, there were 263,944 fast food restaurants in America with a combined revenue of well over $100 billion.  With a Gallup poll revealing that 8 in 10 Americans eat fast food at least monthly and half saying they eat it weekly, these companies know they have a good thing going. … [but] you might want to truly evaluate what’s going on with your fast food. Here are some truths that may make you wonder … Link

A maternal junk food diet alters development of opioid pathway in the offspring  ScienceDaily (July 30, 2013) – Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, shows that eating a junk-food diet during pregnancy changes the development of the opioid signalling pathway in the baby’s brain and permanently alters the way this system operates after birth.   Link

Eating junk food may make you crave even more junk food   Today: Health (June 28, 2013) We know that eating highly-processed carb-heavy foods is not great for us. But we tend to gobble up the food and move on with our lives, telling ourselves we’ll eat healthier at the next meal. But evidence is building that, at least for some of us, our brains don’t quite work that way.  A small study published this week shows that hours after we eat a highly-processed meal with lots of carbohydrates – think white bread, or potato chips – we start to crave more of these junk foods.   Link  

Consumers largely underestimating calorie content of fast food   ScienceDaily (May 23, 2013) — People eating at fast food restaurants largely underestimate the calorie content of meals, especially large ones, according to a new article.  From 2006 to 2010 many American states and cities passed laws requiring chain restaurants to print calorie content on menus. The US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 included a provision that will require all restaurant chains with more than 20 US sites to print calorie content on menus.  Link

Super-sized citizens: The relationship between a country’s fast-food outlets and its obesity rates   ScienceDaily (May 10, 2013 — Many studies have linked the meals served at fast-food outlets to obesity, but is there a relationship between the number of restaurants in a country and the girth of its population?  To answer this question, an international team of health experts looked at the number of Subway restaurants per 100,000 people in 26 economically advanced countries. They also considered other factors…    Link

Revealing the scientific secrets of why people can’t stop after eating one potato chip   ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2013) — The scientific secrets underpinning that awful reality about potato chips — eat one and you’re apt to scarf ’em all down — began coming out of the bag today in research presented at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society…the results shed light on the causes of a condition called “hedonic hyperphagia” that plagues hundreds of millions of people around the world.  “That’s the scientific term for ‘eating to excess for pleasure, rather than hunger…recreational over-eating that may occur in almost everyone at some time in life. And the chronic form is a key factor in the epidemic of overweight and obesity that here in the United States threatens health problems for two out of every three people.”   Link

Second-hand junk food   U.S. News & World Report (Mar. 28, 2013) by Yoni Freedhoff – In my regular battles against the unhealthy new normals of our modern-day, “Willy Wonkian” dietary dystopia, one of the common arguments I hear to oppose any sort of food regulation is that, unlike from tobacco smoke, no one ever got sick from second-hand junk food.   I disagree.   Second-hand junk food is everywhere.    Link

Celebrity endorsement encourages children to eat junk food   ScienceDaily (Mar. 8, 2013) — A study by the University of Liverpool has found that celebrity endorsement of a food product encourages children to eat more of the endorsed product. It also found that children were prompted to eat more of the endorsed product when they saw the celebrity on TV in a different context.   Link

Eating junk food while pregnant may make your child a junk food addict  ScienceDaily (Feb. 28, 2013) — Here’s another reason why a healthy diet during pregnancy is critical to the future health of your children: New research published in the March 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal, suggests that pregnant mothers who consume junk food actually cause changes in the development of the opioid signaling pathway in the brains of their unborn children. This change results in the babies being less sensitive to opioids, which are released upon consumption of foods that are high in fat and sugar. In turn, these children, born with a higher “tolerance” to junk food need to eat more of it to achieve a “feel good” response.  Link

The extraordinary science of addictive junk food   New York Times (Feb. 20, 2013) by Michael Moss – On  the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and discharged 11 men who controlled America’s largest food companies. Nestlé was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the C.E.O.’s and company presidents had come together for a rare, private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial, the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by their skill in fighting one another for what they called “stomach share” — the amount of digestive space that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition.   Link

Softer fast food restaurant lighting and music can cut calorie intake 18 percent   ScienceDaily (Aug. 28, 2012) — Your mood for food can be changed by a restaurant’s choice of music and lighting, leading to increased satisfaction and reduced calorie intake, according to a new study.   Link

Junk food laws may help curb childhood obesity: Study     Huffington Post (Aug. 13, 2012) by Lindsey Tanner  — Laws strictly curbing school sales of junk food and sweetened drinks may play a role in slowing childhood obesity, according to a study that seems to offer the first evidence such efforts could pay off.   The results come from the first large national look at the effectiveness of the state laws over time. They are not a slam-dunk, and even obesity experts who praised the study acknowledge the measures are a political hot potato, smacking of a “nanny state” and opposed by industry and cash-strapped schools relying on food processors’ money.   Link

Less couch time equals fewer cookies    ScienceDaily (May 28, 2012) — Simply ejecting your rear from the couch means your hand will spend less time digging into a bag of chocolate chip cookies.  That is the simple but profound finding … simply changing one bad habit has a domino effect on others. Knock down your sedentary leisure time and you’ll reduce junk food and saturated fats because you’re no longer glued to the TV and noshing. It’s a two-for-one benefit because the behaviors are closely related. Link

Tracking the junk food the world eats after dark   NPR’s Food Blog: The Salt (May 22, 2012) by Ted Burnham – People around the world show remarkable similarity in their daily eating habits: meals start off healthy in the morning, but get progressively worse throughout the day – until by nightfall we’re deep into junk food territory. Just take a look at these images from mobile startup Massive Health.   Link

Familiarity with television fast-food ads linked to obesity   ScienceDaily (Apr. 29, 2012) — There is a long-held concern that youths who eat a lot of fast food are at risk for becoming overweight. New research presented April 29, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston shows that greater familiarity with fast-food restaurant advertising on television is associated with obesity in young people.  Link

The pervasiveness of junk food advertising to children   National Post  (Apr 6, 2012) by Jeannie Marshall – In the following book excerpt, Jeannie Marshall describes her efforts to shield her son from the lure of ‘packaged cakes, chocolate bars, cookies, yogurt-like products and ice cream’: … I noticed that Nico was becoming more agitated after watching television, that he would want to eat things that we didn’t have in our refrigerator or cupboards, and that he would recognize children’s food products when he saw them in the supermarket or in the hands of one of his little stroller-bound peers.   Link

Got a sweet tooth? Here are some tips on how to conquer it    National Post  (Mar. 30, 2012) – Whether you are struggling with bingeing or are simply wondering how best to manage cravings for junk food, you have choices.  Link

French fries aren’t healthy, but they aren’t pathogens   The Globe and Mail (Feb. 20, 2012) – E. coli and Listeria are dangerous pathogens, but what about French fries, snack foods and candy? A medical journal article goes too far in saying junk foods deserve the same label.  Three experts in Alberta, writing in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, say products with sodium, simple sugars, saturated and trans fats in excess of physiological needs justify the label of pathogen.  Link

Fatty food bad for you?  It may be a no-brainer    National Post (Dec. 28, 2011) by Sharon Kirkey – Researchers have found that there’s a part of your body that might actually shrink when you eat too much fast food. Unfortunately, it’s your brain. People with diets high in trans fats are more likely to experience the kind of brain shrinkage associated with Alzheimer’s disease than people who consume less of the artery-damaging fats, the new study suggests.  Link

Early death by junk food?  High levels of phosphate in sodas and processed foods accelerate the aging process in mice   ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2010) — Here’s another reason to kick the soda habit. New research published online in the FASEB Journal shows that high levels of phosphates may add more “pop” to sodas and processed foods than once thought. That’s because researchers have found that the high levels of phosphates accelerate signs of aging. High phosphate levels may also increase the prevalence and severity of age-related complications, such as chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular calcification, and can also induce severe muscle and skin atrophy.   Link

Junk food addiction may be clue to obesity: study    Reuters (Mar. 28, 2010) by JoAnne Allen, Reuters – Bingeing on high-calorie foods may be as addictive as cocaine or nicotine, and could cause compulsive eating and obesity, according to a study.  The findings in a study of animals cannot be directly applied to human obesity, but may help in understanding the condition and in developing therapies to treat it, researchers wrote Sunday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.   Link

Fat epidemic linked to chemicals run amok  (Mar. 8, 2010) – by Stephen Perrine with Heather Hurlock.   It’s not just about calories in versus calories out.  If that were all it took to lose weight — eating a little less and exercising a little more — then weight loss would be as simple as grade-school math: Subtract Y from Z and end up with X.  But if you’ve ever followed a diet program and achieved less than your desired result, you probably came away feeling frustrated, depressed, and maybe a bit guilty. What did I do wrong? … More and more research is indicating that America’s obesity crisis can’t be blamed entirely on too much fast food.  Link

Is your junk food habit making you depressed? (Jan. 15, 2010) by Megan Othersen Gorman— A study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry makes a strong case that processed junk food can trigger or contribute to depression, while eating whole and healthy food seems protective. British and French epidemiologists analyzed food and mood data from 3,486 men and women (average age 55) in the Whitehall II study on London-based office staff. Link

Mice can eat ‘junk’ and not get fat: Researchers find gene that protects high-fat-diet mice from obesity  ScienceDaily (Sep. 4, 2009) — University of Michigan researchers have identified a gene that acts as a master switch to control obesity in mice. When the switch is turned off, even high-fat-diet mice remain thin.  Link

Eating quickly and until full triples risk of being overweight   ScienceDaily (Oct. 22, 2008) — The combination of eating quickly and eating until full trebles the risk of being overweight, according to a study published on the British Medical Journal website.  Until the last decade or so most adults did not have the opportunity to consume enough energy to enable fat to be stored. However, with the increased availability of inexpensive food in larger portions, fast food, and fewer families eating together and eating while distracted (e.g. while watching TV), eating behaviors are changing, and this may be contributing to the obesity epidemic.  Link

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