Is there a cure for cocaine or heroin addiction beyond just dropping it "cold turkey?" Not really. Well there may be the same problem for a person's addictions to tasty treats such as milkshakes for example, thus possibly explaining the battles doctors and drug companies have with the ever increasing obesity epidemic worldwide. Advertising responsibility plays a key role in these food addictions also.
Using a fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging system, Yale researchers studied the brain activity in a variety of women that were offered a decadent chocolate or milkshake or an option that was practically tasteless. The team found that seeing the milkshake triggered brain activity in the anterior cingulated cortex and the medial orbitofrontal cortex, brain areas that have been shown to also light up in addicted drug users.
Ashley Gearhardt of Yale University in Connecticut said:
"If certain foods are addictive, this may partially explain the difficulty people experience in achieving sustainable weight loss. These findings support the theory that compulsive food consumption may be driven in part by an enhanced anticipation of the rewarding properties of food."
The study suggests that advertising might also play a role in the nation's obesity problem, and future studies should look at whether food ads trigger this same kind of brain activity.
The study's authors continue:
"Ubiquitous food advertising and the availability of inexpensive palatable foods may make it extremely difficult to adhere to healthier food choices because the omnipresent food cues trigger the reward system."
People who are addicted to an illegal substance are more likely to react with physical, psychological and behavioral changes when exposed to that substance. Altering visual cues and advertising of tempting treats, may curb the urge to indulge.
Food product choice is overwhelming as well as TV commercials and print advertisements that want to sell their food products to the public. Obviously, it's up to each person to decide what to eat, but if someone is constantly bombarded with images of food every time they pick up a magazine then there is a good chance that they are going to be swayed in what they choose to eat.
Children are especially targeted at a young age to form food addictions via advertising. Ads that draw one into a story and make you feel good, like the McDonalds commercial where the dad and his son are shoveling their driveway and the son treats his poor old dad to lunch at McDonalds when they are done, pull at the heartstrings of both children and adults.
Music and other sound effects add to the excitement of commercials, especially commercials aimed at kids. Jingles are a type of music used to make you think of a product. Have you ever noticed that the volume of commercials is higher than the sound for the program that follows?
Tony the Tiger sells cereal and the Nestles Quick Bunny sells chocolate milk. Cartoons like these make kids identify with products.
Finally, by law advertisers have to tell the truth, but sometimes, they use words that can mislead viewers. Look for words in commercials like: "Part of..." "The taste of real....." "Natural...." "New, better tasting....." "Because we care..." There are hundreds of these deceptive phrases out and about.
Buyer and eater beware.
"Neural Correlates of Food Addiction"
Ashley N. Gearhardt, MS, MPhil; Sonja Yokum, PhD; Patrick T. Orr, MS, MPhil; Eric Stice, PhD; William R. Corbin, PhD; Kelly D. Brownell, PhD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. Published online April 4, 2011. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.32
Written by Sy Craft