Why Our Brains Want What's Bad for Us

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2009 1:46 PM CDT
Why Our Brains Want What's Bad for Us
A Hardee's Country Breakfast Burrito.   (AP Photo)

Former Food and Drug Administration chief David Kessler thinks Americans are victims of “conditioned hyper-eating,” and he’s written a book about it: The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. The Wall Street Journal poked him for some answers about how food can “hijack” our brains, and how cuisine—from snack food to restaurant fare—is designed to entice.

Some highlights:

  • "I thought I was going to end up in the world of nutrition and endocrinology. I ended up inside the brain and inside the food industry."
  • "What we eat in restaurants is fat on fat on sugar on fat with salt. Pick any dish in any mid-American restaurant. What is spinach dip? Fat on salt with green stuff."
  • "Once you lay down that neuro-circuitry, it's there for life. The actual act of consumption isn't as strong as anticipation. It's the conditioning associated with a cue."
  • "This isn't a disease. But we've been captured by these stimuli. In the past, it allowed us to survive. Now we have health consequences because it's available 24/7 and we've added the emotional gloss of advertising."
(More David Kessler stories.)

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