Eating for the sake of pleasure rather than survival is nothing new.
But only in the past several years have researchers come to understand deeply how certain foods—particularly fats and sweets—actually change brain chemistry in a way that drives some people to overconsume.
Scientists have a relatively new name for such cravings: hedonic hunger – a powerful desire for food in the absence of any need for it; the yearning we experience when our stomach is full but our brain is still ravenous.
And a growing number of experts now argue that hedonic hunger is one of the primary contributors to surging obesity rates in developed countries worldwide – particularly in the U.S. – where scrumptious desserts and mouthwatering junk foods are cheap and plentiful.
‘Shifting the focus to pleasure’ is a new approach to understanding hunger and weight gain says Michael Lowe – a clinical psychologist at Drexel University who coined the term ‘hedonic hunger’ in 2007.
‘A lot of overeating – maybe all of the eating people do beyond their energy needs – is based on consuming some of our most palatable foods. And I think this approach has already had an influence on obesity treatment’.
Determining whether an individual’s obesity arises primarily from emotional cravings as opposed to an innate flaw in the body’s ability to burn up calories – Lowe says – helps doctors choose the most appropriate medications and behavioral interventions for treatment.
Kiwis want greater government controls on junk-food promotions to children – with 72 per cent calling for stronger restrictions, says a survey.
The Horizon Research poll found 40.5 per cent were strongly in favour of greater restrictions to reduce the advertising of unhealthy food and drink to children and 31.5 per cent ‘somewhat’ in favour.
The June survey of 1620 adults found 12.5 per cent were strongly or somewhat against the idea and 15.5 per cent neither for nor against.
Forty-three per cent wanted a ban imposed on website games and competitions that carry branding of unhealthy foods and drinks.
The survey was commissioned by researchers at Auckland University investigating ways of dealing with New Zealand’s obesity epidemic. Eleven per cent of Kiwi children are obese and among developed countries we have the third greatest proportion of overweight or obese children.
Boyd Swinburn – the university’s professor of population health and global nutrition – said the strong support for a clampdown on junk-food promotion to kids was a call for the Government to act.