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Is fast food addictive?

WASHINGTON, DC. Obesity and diabetes are growing at alarming rates in countries where fast foods have become the staple diet. The health commissioner in New York City recently announced that the incidence of type 2 diabetes in that city now stands at 8% or double the rate encountered in 1994. A growing body of evidence points to the fast food industry as the main culprit in this disastrous trend. There is now evidence that meals loaded with fat and sugar not only block the hormonal controls that tell people when they have eaten enough, but actually act on the brain in much the same way that heroin and nicotine do. Says John Banzhaf, a Washington law professor, "We might even discover that it is possible to become addicted to the all-American meal of burgers and fries".

Researchers point out that a single meal of a burger, fries, soft drink and dessert easily meets the calorie requirements for an entire day. So anything eaten over and above this throughout the day will pave the way to obesity. This may explain why over 60% of all American adults are now either overweight or obese. Other researchers have found that it only takes one or two fatty meals to reset the body's hormonal system and develop a craving for more fat, i.e. addiction.

The evidence that fast foods can be addictive is steadily growing and has now resulted in a class-action lawsuit against McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Wendy's. The lawyers behind the suit point to the successful prosecution of "Big Tobacco" for selling an addictive product. They believe that the fast food chains should be forced to help pay for the enormous cost of obesity-related health problems largely caused by the consumption of fast foods.
Martindale, D. A high with your fries? New Scientist, February 1, 2003, p.3 and pp. 27-29

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