Newsweek, which recently announced it would cease print publication, is the latest media outlet to be suckered by the most resilient fad in food-bashing. The blog-to-be printed a story on “food addiction,” the theory that cookies are nothing more than tasty cocaine.
The story recounts that when people eat pleasing food or drink delicious drinks while being monitored by a brain scanner, the pleasure centers of their brains light up. To Kelly “If it tastes good, tax it” Brownell and other activists, that’s evidence that candy equals cigarettes.
But candy isn’t tobacco, as we have repeatedly pointed out. The real activist goal is to create a false narrative that will enable lawsuits against food companies and enrich trial lawyers (and perhaps get them expert witness retainers). Additionally, it’s much easier to bypass popularly elected legislatures when you can reassure bureaucrats and busybody politicians that people don’t really want tasty food.
And if the brain’s pleasure center lighting up is the metric, then just about anything is “a drug.” Brains light up from any positive stimulation, whether it is food, video games, using the internet, or intimacy. If people use the pleasant sensations from food as grounds for regulations like requiring servers to promote foods that don’t taste good, putting warning labels on anything that does, and banning all-you-care-to-eat buffets, what other pleasant activities will face regulation for being “addictive”?
We don’t care to find out. Especially since there’s very little evidence that claims of “food addiction” are meaningful. A Cambridge University research team evaluated the literature and argued, “Criteria for substance dependence translate poorly to food-related behaviors.” That won’t stop Brownell and others from proclaiming hot wings to be heroin, but hopefully it will give politicians reason to shy away.