Category Archives: Junk Food Addiction

Fast food menus claiming less calories … sort of

fast food slimmingFoodFacts.com ran across some seemingly encouraging news today regarding calories and fast food menus. As we read further, though, we realized that there’s a bit of a “smoke and mirrors” component going on with these claims.

A comprehensive new report is revealing that fast-food chains have been cutting calories on their menus.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, menu items introduced by big chain restaurants—including McDonald’s, Chipotle, and IHOP—had, on average, 60 fewer calories than items released in 2012. That’s a 12 percent drop in calories.

The study looked at 19,000 menu items served in 66 of the 100 largest restaurant chains in the U.S. from 2012 to 2013. The biggest drops were in new main course offerings (67 calories), followed by new children’s (46 calories) and beverage (26 calories) items.

However, the overall mean calories didn’t budge. The burger chains aren’t cutting the calories of their signature burgers; they’re just adding healthier items, such as salads, to the menu. Time posits that the lower-calorie menu additions are popping up because restaurants with 20 or more locations in the U.S. have to list calorie counts on menus.

But according to the study’s lead author, Sara N. Bleich, 200 extra calories a day can contribute to obesity.

“You can’t prohibit people from eating fast food, but offering consumers lower calorie options at chain restaurants may help reduce caloric intake without asking the individual to change their behavior—a very difficult thing to do,” Bleich said in a statement.

“This voluntary action by large chain restaurants to offer lower calorie menu options may indicate a trend toward increased transparency of nutritional information, which could have a significant impact on obesity and the public’s health,” Bleich said.

On the other hand, FoodFacts.com just wants to put out there that these voluntary actions by large fast food chains may be more about seeking to change public perception than an attempt to increase nutritional transparency of menu items. Since there is no chain that’s actually reformulating their signature items in attempt to decrease calories, we do have to think this might be true. While it’s important for fast food restaurants to introduce lower calorie options, as long as their main offerings remain as they are, it’s somewhat misleading to say that menus are slimming down. It all depends on what the consumer chooses to eat, not on the concentrated efforts of chains to reduce calories in items across their menus.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/10/12/fast-food-menus-are-slimming-down–theres-catch

Under the Bun: Wendy’s Pulled Pork Cheeseburger … can you say overkill?

pulled-pork-cheeseburger-carls-jr-hardeesSometimes FoodFacts.com tries to imagine how fast food chains comes up with their new and “different” ideas. For instance, how did Taco Bell arrive at the Waffle Taco for their breakfast menu. It isn’t exactly a natural concept to use a waffle as you would a taco shell — and while we have to admit that it might get points for creativity, texturally we just don’t see a match there. That Waffle Taco, for us, also falls into the overkill category. Too much going on to be a hand-held breakfast. We do find that many of the new fast food introductions are just “too much” — and we think the length of the ingredient lists certainly substantiate our opinion.

Wendy’s newest introduction does appear to fall into the overkill category. The Pulled Pork Cheeseburger brings together elements that we just don’t think belong in a sandwich together. We can’t help but wonder who thought of this one. It’s sort of a reach.

Let’s go under the bun and find out what’s really in the Pulled Pork Cheeseburger. First you should know what you’ll find under that brioche bun — a stack of a cheeseburger, broccoli slaw and pulled pork. The nutrition facts here just can’t be good. Let’s take a look:

Calories                                 640
Fat                                         33 grams
Saturated Fat                       13 grams
Trans Fat                              1.5 grams
Cholesterol                           130 mg
Sodium 1                              260 mg

There’s just too much of everything going on in here and none of it’s good. The nutrition facts for this sandwich are what gives fast food a bad name.

Let’s not forget to detail the ingredient list:

Brioche Bun: Enriched Wheat Flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Water, Sugar, Yeast, Buttermilk Powder (whey solids, enzyme-modified butter, maltodextrin, salt, guar gum, annatto and turmeric [color]), Egg Yolks, Butter, Salt, Dough Conditioner (wheat flour, DATEM, contains 2% or less of: silicon dioxide [flow aid], soybean oil, enzymes [wheat], calcium sulfate, salt), Dry Malt, Calcium Propionate, Dough Conditioner (degermed yellow corn flour, turmeric and paprika [color], contains 2% or less of: natural flavor), Egg Wash (eggs, water). CONTAINS: WHEAT, EGG, MILK, 1/4 lb Hamburger Patty: Ground Beef. Seasoned with Salt, Cheddar Cheese Slice: Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto Color. CONTAINS: MILK. Broccoli Slaw: Broccoli, Carrots, Red cabbage, Broccoli Slaw Sauce (soybean oil, water, white wine vinegar, sugar, egg yolk, distilled vinegar, mustard seed, salt, white wine, onion [dehydrated], xanthan gum, spice, garlic [dehydrated], citric acid, tartaric acid. CONTAINS: EGG, Smoky BBQ Sauce: Water, Tomato Paste, Sugar, Distilled Vinegar, Brown Sugar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Modified Cornstarch, Chili Peppers, Natural Flavor Including Smoke Flavor, Caramel Color, Onion (dehydrated), Garlic (dehydrated), Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (preservatives), Chipotle Peppers, Molasses, Spices Including Mustard Seed, Jalapeno Pepper (dehydrated), Tamarind, Soybean Oil. Pulled Pork: Pork, Water, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Sodium Phosphate.

That’s about 86 ingredients with more than a few sources of hidden MSG and six controversial ingredients. That is definitely what we consider overkill. While we know there will be an audience for the Wendy’s Pulled Pork Bacon Cheeseburger, we’ll be sitting this one out. Even before we got to the bad nutrition facts and ridiculously long ingredient list, we couldn’t figure out why we’d want to eat a cheeseburger, broccoli slaw and pulled pork piled inside the same bun. Maybe it’s just us …

https://www.wendys.com/en-us/nutrition-info

Don’t eat that! It will spoil your appetite! Junk food just might do exactly what your mother warned you about …

Assorted Junk FoodYou have at least one memory from your childhood featuring your mom or your grandmother or some other well-meaning adult admonishing you in a harsh tone. “Don’t eat that! It will spoil your appetite!” It might have been cookies, or candy or chips. Inevitably, it was very close to dinner time. And odds are, you weren’t pleased by the words.

As it turns out, junk food really might spoil your appetite — on a more permanent basis.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales Australia conducted several studies to see how junk food would impact rats’ weight and dietary preferences. Of course, they found the obvious—junk food “makes rats fat.” But they also determined that junk food-fed rats experienced a reduced desire for novel foods, which is important as this appetitive tendency, innate in animals, typically encourages rats’ to pursue a balanced diet.

“Eating junk food seems to change the response to signals that are associated with food reward,” commented Prof. Margaret Morris, Head of Pharmacology from the UNSW Australia’s School of Medical Sciences and a study co-author.

How did the researchers come to this conclusion?

For several weeks, the team fed one group of animals a diet of healthy rat food, and they fed another group of rats a diet that included not-so-healthy human foods such as pie, dumplings, cookies and cake. Both groups of rats were also given cherry and grape sugar water to drink. The junk food-fed rats wound up weighing 10 percent more than their healthy food-fed counterparts.

In one of the experiments, the team taught these rats to associate cherry and grape sugar water with different sound cues. The healthy rats responded appropriately to the sound cues—that is, if they had just consumed grape sugar water and then heard another cue for grape sugar water, they wouldn’t drink more of it. Junk food-fed rats, on the other hand, would respond to sound cues in an unhealthy manner—if they heard a noise associated with grape sugar water, they would drink said sugar water even if they had just consumed a lot of it. (The same findings hold for cherry sugar water.)

In other words, it appears junk food-fed rats don’t seem to realize when they’ve overindulged in a food (the flavored sugar water); instead, they respond to the sound cues just the same, whereas healthy rats stop responding to the food they just ate.

“We know a lot about food and nutrition and what we should be doing, and yet we’re getting fatter and fatter,” Morris says. “Our sort of diet appears to override an animal’s ability to know it’s just eaten something—they’re just eating indiscriminately, if you will.”

In another experiment, the researchers wanted to see whether the apparent disruption of the reward mechanism persisted after the junk food-fed rats were placed on a healthy diet. Even after a week on healthy rat chow, the formerly junk food-fed rats still acted the same way, treating both solutions indiscriminately, according to Morris.

“It suggests that whatever changes happen in the brain may persist for a while,” she says.

The study, while pertaining to rats, has a lot of troubling implications for humans. Rat behavior often gives insight into human behavior—which means we should think deeply about junk food’s psychological and public health impacts.

Science is constantly offering us new perspectives on our health and our foods. FoodFacts.com can say with confidence that those new perspectives simply uphold what nutritionists, dietitians, researchers, and educated consumers have known all along. Junk food is nutritionally vacant. What it does provide, unfortunately, are high levels of sugar, salt and fat, contributing to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. And according to the study detailed here, it can interfere with our normal tendencies to balance our diets, thus leading to more of the same. Now that’s a new perspective — not to mention yet another significant reason to stay far away from junk food.

http://www.newsweek.com/junk-food-addictive-avoid-trying-new-foods-266803

Can junk food destroy your sense of smell?

iStock_000014140533SmallWe’re all pretty comfortable with the knowledge that junk food is bad for our health. We know that an unhealthy diet has been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Junk food isn’t just nutritionally vacant, it has known negative health effects that severely debilitate lifestyles and can result in serious medical problems and even death. But are there other problems that can result from the consumption of junk food that we haven’t been aware of?

A new study has revealed eating junk food could increase the risk of a person destroying their sense of smell.

The findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, show diet may impact a range of human traits apart from weight.

Dr Nicolas Thiebaud, of Florida State University, said: ‘This opens up a lot of possibilities for obesity research.’

It is the first time researchers have been able to demonstrate a firm link between a bad diet and a loss of smell.

In the six-month study mice were given a high-fat daily diet, while also being taught to associate between an odour and a reward of a drink of water.

Mice given the food were slower to learn the association than a control group given their usual meals.

And when researchers introduced a new fragrance to monitor their adjustment, the mice with the high-fat diets could not rapidly adapt, demonstrating reduced ability to smell.
Fellow researcher Professor Debra Ann Fadool said: ‘Moreover, when high-fat reared mice were placed on a diet of control chow – during which they returned to normal body weight and blood chemistry – they still had reduced olfactory [smell] capacities.

Scientists at Florida State University found links between a high-fat diet and major structural and functional changes in the nasal system

‘Mice that were exposed to high-fat diets just had 50 percent of the neurons that could operate to encode odour signals.’

The team will now begin looking at whether exercise could slow down a high-fat diet’s impact on smell.

They will also investigate if a high-sugar diet would also have the same negative effect.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the study comes at an important time with obesity rates at all time highs throughout the world.

It certainly appears that the effects of junk food reach further than any of us expected. FoodFacts.com can’t help but wonder whether there may be other damaging effects related to junk food consumption that haven yet to be uncovered.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2701382/Junk-food-destroy-sense-SMELL-scientists-warn.html#ixzz39TgEfjmW

Is junk food just as harmful as smoking? A U.N. Official thinks so. Maybe we should listen.

Junk food as harmful as cigarettesFoodFacts.com spends a lot of time talking about the harmful effects of bad food. We focus on the dangers of excessive calorie consumption, added sugars in our diet, unreasonable amounts of sodium in food products, and the possible health implications of controversial ingredients. We know that our community feels as strongly as we do about the condition of our food supply and pays careful attention to their own diets. Some might agree that they consider their food consumption just as significant as other healthy habits they incorporate in their daily lives — things like exercise and staying away from cigarette smoking. So if consuming healthy food is just as important as not smoking, it might stand to reason that unhealthy food is just as harmful as smoking a cigarette.

Now, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter warned that obesity is a bigger global health threat than tobacco use, lamenting that it isn’t taken as seriously as it should be.

A United Nations official called for greater regulation of unhealthy foods, saying junk food is just as bad for global health as tobacco.

Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said the world needs to come together to regulate diet. “Unhealthy diets are now a greater threat to global health than tobacco,” he said in a speech at the opening of the World Health Organization’s annual summit. “Just as the world came together to regulate the risks of tobacco, a bold framework convention on adequate diets must now be agreed.”

De Schutter voiced frustration that the world hasn’t taken obesity seriously enough. “It has been two years since my report on nutrition and the right to food, and ten years since the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its Global Strategy on Diet Physical Activity and Health,” he said. “Yet obesity continues to advance—and diabetes, heart disease and other health complications along with it. The warning signs are not being heard.”

The Special Rapporteur has previously agitated for greater governmental action on junk foods, including taxing unhealthy products, regulating fats and sugars, cracking down on advertising for junk food, and rethinking agricultural subsidies that make unhealthy food cheaper.

“Governments have been focusing on increasing calorie availability,” he said, “but they have often been indifferent to what kind of calories are on offer, at what price, to whom they are made available, and how they are marketed.”

Somehow, consumers have been conditioned to think little, if anything at all, about the possible risks associated with our food supply. Amidst all the new research regarding calories, fat, sugar, sodium and controversial ingredients, it appears that there are consumers who don’t clearly see the dangers that can be involved. If you want to take a look at that, read an internet article regarding unhealthy food and ingredients. Then make sure you read the comments that follow the article. That’s where you’ll find average consumers NOT taking these issues as seriously as they might. You’ll find people wondering what they’re actually expected to eat, saying that risks are overstated as well as consumers who are under the impression that simply because the FDA said something is fine, it really must be. And let’s not forget that there’s plenty of conflicting information out there. Just yesterday, we focused our blog on brominated vegetable oil. Some of the articles written on the topic insist that the amount of this controversial ingredient found in beverages and food products can’t possibly be harmful — even though it’s been found to be bioaccumulative. Confusing?

Maybe the simple statement that junk food is just as unhealthy as cigarette smoking is exactly the kind of message that can clarify the discussion for millions of consumers. The conversation certainly deserves to be advanced.

http://time.com/104999/u-n-official-says-junk-food-just-as-bad-as-cigarettes/

Maybe we really can’t eat just one …are we addicted to junk food?

Chances are pretty good that the answer to that question is “Absolutely!”

While reviewing the tremendous amounts of new information that have been released over the past year or so regarding obesity, FoodFacts.com has noticed that more than a few studies point out a common fact. The proliferation of junk foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat has occurred in our society at the very same time that obesity has soared. We don’t actually think that’s a coincidence and it does beg the question, “Is junk food addictive?” Maybe you really can’t eat just one of a wide variety of junk foods with high levels of fat, salt and sugar.

Take Oreos, for instance – everyone knows it’s just about impossible to eat one and not look for more. There’s new research out of Connecticut College that is showing that certain foods (and particularly Oreos in this study) cause our brains to signal us to eat more of them. Addictive drugs have this very same affect on the brain. Previous research in both rodents and humans have shown that the same area of the brain will light up on scans when drugs are used or high fat, high sugar foods are consumed.

This research was conducted by students who constructed a two-sided maze to test this theory on rats. On one side of the maze, the rats were fed Oreos. On the other side, they were given rice cakes. Then the rats were permitted to choose for themselves which side of the maze to independently explore.

The researchers recorded the amount of time the rats spent on each side. They then compared the times to a similar experiment where the rats were given an injection of cocaine or morphine on one side of the maze and a shot of saline on the other.

The lab rats conditioned with cookies spent just as much time on the “drug” side of the maze as the rats conditioned with cocaine or morphine, the researchers say. It was also found that the Oreo-eating rats actually experienced more pleasure than the animals who had been injected with drugs.

If consumption of foods high in fat and sugar can lead to addictive behaviors and have the same effect on the brain as drugs that are known to be addictive, then those foods could be considered addictive. This explains why some people have difficulty regulating their food intake, especially when it comes to high fat and sugar options.

We need to keep in mind that rats aren’t humans and these results may or may not be replicated in a human study. Considering that part of the rat study involved the use of illegal drugs, it’s difficult to imagine this research being replicated for the human population. In addition, the research didn’t prove that the rats were addicted – it simply showed that the rats kept going back for more Oreos and found the experience pleasurable.

These things considered though, FoodFacts.com DOES think there’s definitely something these rats are teaching us. There may very well be a correlation between addiction and junk food. That’s why it’s so hard for so many to resist the temptation. And, whether it’s an Oreo or a different product that’s high in fat and sugar, maybe we really can’t eat just one … even with the best of intentions. Just one more reason that processed junk food belongs on all of our “avoid” lists!

http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/10/16/oreos-as-addictive-as-cocaine-in-lab-rat-study/

Is junk food consumption an actual addiction?

There are so many processed food products available today that FoodFacts.com understands how difficult it is for many consumers to avoid them. Sometimes even products we don’t think of as processed prove to be when we take a look at their ingredient lists. Junk food can be found in our fast food establishments and our grocery stores and many food retailers in between. The term is no longer appropriate for one or two food categories, but can be applied to many. As the obesity epidemic becomes more of a pressing problem each day, we have been left to wonder if the widespread proliferation of processed foods has actually turned into an addiction for some consumers.

A new study out of Boston Children’s Hospital has found that the consumption of highly processed carbohydrates can, in fact, cause excess hunger and stimulate the brain regions that are involved in reward and cravings. It was noted that in addition to reward and craving, this is the region of the brain that is also linked with substance abuse and dependence. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on June 26, 2013, investigates how food intake is regulated by dopamine-containing pleasure centers of the brain.

The research suggests that limiting these “high-glycemic index” foods could help the obese population avoid overeating.

In order to conduct the study, the researchers set out to measure blood glucose levels and hunger as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to observe brain activity during the four hours following a meal. This is the time period that influences eating behavior during the next meal.

Twelve overweight or obese men consumed test meals designed as two different milkshakes with the same calories, taste and sweetness. Essentially both were the same with the only difference being that one included high-glycemic index carbohydrates and the other contained low-glycemic index carbohydrates.

After participants consumed the high-glycemic index milkshake, they experienced an initial surge in blood sugar levels, followed by sharp crash four hours later. This was caused by a decrease in blood glucose that is associated with excessive hunger as well as the intense activation of the brain region involved in addictive behaviors. The idea that high-glycemic index foods are addictive is certainly controversial and further study is necessary in order to arrive at a definitive conclusion.

In the meantime, FoodFacts.com thinks we should all familiarize ourselves with high-glycemic index foods even more thoroughly. Highly processed carbohydrates include white bread (burger buns at fast food restaurants, French toast sticks from a box or fast food, plain bagels), white potatoes and white potato products (including french fries, potato chips, instant mashed potatoes or frozen potatoes), donuts, onion rings, instant oatmeal, boxed macaroni and cheese, soda … the list goes on. When we eat these processed products, our brain tells us to eat more. Whether or not they can be labeled “addictive” remains to be seen, but regardless of the label, consuming processed foods isn’t a healthy habit. Our brains seem to get that message loud and clear.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130626153922.htm