We thought that peak hysteria over the scientifically dubious notion of “food addiction” had arrived when a co-host of a show sponsored by the inventors of the Venti latte bizarrely blamed the condition for being too skinny. (Apparently you can blame food addiction for obesity or looking like a runway model—take your pick.) But we were wrong.
According to British author Damian Thompson, whose book was recently picked up by an American publisher, just about anything that is remotely modern is essentially heroin for our brains. And, of course, food makers are supposedly nefariously turning the public into junkies. To him, cupcakes are a particular evil and supposedly the cause of bulimia. Huh?
And food scolds seem to like to scold any food. He writes:
Anyone with a rolled banknote up their nose knows that — so long as their dealer hasn’t ripped them off — they’re about to experience the effects of a mind-altering substance. […] In contrast, the tubby young man who demolishes a packet of chocolate digestives while watching the football doesn’t suspect that his eating habits have left his brain unusually sensitive to stimulation by sugar; he just knows that, once the packet’s opened, the biscuits disappear.
Actual scientists disagree with this characterization. Cambridge University researchers found that “criteria for substance dependence translate poorly to food-related behaviours” in a recent investigation. Meanwhile, the author also claims that the iPhone game “Angry Birds” should also fall into the tobacco/alcohol realm. When the idea of “food addiction” was first proposed, a psychologist warned that “The word ‘addiction’ is perilously close to losing any meaning.” Her warning hasn’t been heeded, and while the only winner so far has been the publishing industry, the trial lawyer industry is certainly looking to get in on the fun.