Im being a little bit harsh here, but only to highlight a fundamental question. Guyenet goes into brilliant detail about things like the exact way the ventral tegmental area of the brain responds to food-related signals, but in the end, it all sounds suspiciously like food tastes good so we eat a lot. Its hard to see where exactly this differs from the paradigm that he dismisses as attributing leanness to wise voluntary decisions and a strong characterto make lean people feel smug. Yes, food tastes good so we eat a lot. And Reddit is fun to read, but if someone browses Reddit ten hours a day and doesnt do any work then we start speculating about their character, and maybe even feeling smug. This part of the book, taken alone, doesnt really explain why we shouldnt be doing that about weight too.
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But modern food is calorically dense it contains many more calories than predicted per unit mass and fiber-poor. This fools the brain into thinking that were eating less than we really are, and shuts down the system that would normally make us feel full once weve had enough. Simultaneously, the extremely high level of food reward tricks the brain into thinking that this food is especially nutritionally valuable and that it should relax its normal constraints. Adding to all of this is the so-called summary buffet effect, where people will eat more calories from a variety of foods presented together than they would from any single food alone. My mother likes to talk about her extra dessert stomach, ie the thing where you can gorge yourself on a burger and fries until youre totally full and couldnt eat another bite but then mysteriously find room for an ice cream sundae afterwards. This is apparently a real thing thats been confirmed in scientific experiments, and a major difference between us and our ancestors. Kung Bushmen, everyones go-to example of an all-natural hunter-gatherer tribe, apparently get 50 of their calories from a single food, the mongongo nut, and another 40 from meat. Meanwhile, we design our meals to include as many unlike foods as possible for example, a burger with fries, soda, and a milkshake for dessert. This once again causes the brain to relax its usual strict constraints on appetite and let us eat more than we should. The book sums all of these things up into the idea of food reward making some foods hyperpalatable and seducing the reward mechanism in order to produce a sort of food addiction that leads to cravings, the obesity epidemic, and a profusion of scare"s.
This was harder than it sounded; rats ate only as much as they needed and thesis never got fat. Various groups tried to design various new forms of rat chow with extra fat, extra sugar, et cetera, with only moderate success sometimes they could get the rats to eat a little too much and gradually become sort of obese, but it was a hard. Then, almost by accident, someone tried feeding the rats human snack food, and they ballooned up to be as fat as, well, humans. The book: Palatable human food is the most effective way to cause a normal rat to spontaneously overeat and become obese, and its fattening effect cannot be attributed solely to its fat or sugar content. So what does cause this fattening effect? I think the books answer is no single factor, but that doesnt matter, because capitalism is an optimization process that designs foods to be as rewarding as possible, so however many different factors there are, every single one of them will be present in your. But to be more scientific about it, the specific things involved are some combination of sweet/salty/umami tastes, certain ratios of fat and sugar, and reinforced preferences for certain flavors. Modern food isnt just unusually rewarding, its also unusually bad at making us full. The brain has some pretty sophisticated mechanisms to determine when weve eaten enough; these usually involve estimating foods calorie load from its mass and fiber level.
That in the 1800s, only 5 literature of Americans were? That the prevalence of obesity has doubled since 1980? Researchers have been keeping records of how much people eat for a long time, and increased food intake since 1980 perfectly explains increased obesity since 1980 there is no need to bring in decreased exercise lined or any other factors. Exercise has decreased since the times when we were all tilling fields ten hours a day, but for most of history, as our exercise decreased, our food intake decreased as well. But for some reason, starting around 1980, the two factors uncoupled, and food intake started to rise despite exercise continuing to decrease. Guyenet discusses many different reasons this might have happened, including stress-related overeating, poor sleep, and quick prepackaged food. But the ideas he keeps coming back to again and again are food reward and satiety. In the 1970s, scientists wanted to develop new rat models of obesity.
The hungry Brain is part of guyenets attempt to explain this third model, and it basically succeeds. But like many third way style proposals, it leaves a lot of ambiguity. With cico, at least you know where you stand confident that everything is based on willpower and that you can ignore biology completely. And again, with taubes, you know where you stand confident that willpower is useless and that low-carb diets will solve everything. The hungry Brain is a little more complicated, a little harder to get a read on, and at times pretty wishy-washy. But listening to peoples confidently-asserted simple and elegant ideas was how we got into this mess, so whatever, lets keep reading. The hungry Brain begins with the typical ritual invocation of the obesity epidemic. Did you know there are entire premodern cultures where literally nobody is obese?
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The consensus doesnt believe that obesity is just about weak-willed people voluntarily choosing to eat too much, or that obese people would get thin if they just tried diet and exercise, or that all calories are the same. He writes, the calories in, calories out model is the idea that our body weight is determined by voluntary decisions about how much we eat and move, and in order to control our body weight, all we need is a little advice about how many. The primary defining feature of this model is that it assumes that food intake and body fatness are not regulated. This model seems to exist mostly to make lean people feel smug, since it attributes their leanness entirely to wise voluntary decisions and a strong character. I patent think at this point, few people in the research world believe the cico model. David Ludwig and I both agree that it provides a poor fit for the evidence.
As an alternative, ludwig proposes the insulin model, which states that the primary cause of obesity is excessive insulin action on fat cells, which in turn is caused principally by rapidly-digesting carbohydrate. According to this model, too much insulin reduces blood levels of glucose and fatty acids (the two primary circulating metabolic fuels simultaneously leading to hunger, fatigue, and fat gain. Overeating is caused by a kind of internal starvation. There are other versions of the insulin model, but this is the one advocated by ludwig (and taubes so it will be my focus. But theres a third model, not mentioned by ludwig or taubes, which is the one that predominates paper in my field. It acknowledges the fact that body weight is regulated, but the regulation happens in the brain, in response to signals from the body that indicate its energy status. Chief among these signals is the hormone leptin, but many others play a role (insulin, ghrelin, glucagon, cck, glp-1, glucose, amino acids, etc.).
All of our team members are qualified to provide academic help to applicants. So dont wait any longer. Make an order today! Content note: food, dieting, obesity,. The hungry Brain gives off a bit of a malcolm Gladwell vibe, with its cutesy name and pop-neuroscience style.
But dont be fooled. Stephan guyenet is no Gladwell-style dilettante. Hes a neuroscientist studying nutrition, with a side job as a nutrition consultant, who spends his spare time blogging about nutrition, tweeting about nutrition, and speaking at nutrition-related conferences. He is very serious about what he does and his book is exactly as good as I would have hoped. Not only does it provide the best introduction to nutrition ive ever seen, but it incidentally explains other neuroscience topics better than the books directly about them. I first learned about guyenets work from his various debates with Gary taubes and his supporters, where he usually represents the scientific consensus side. He is very careful to emphasize that the consensus doesnt look anything like taubes caricature.
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