Obesity can't be blamed on just soda and food addictions

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Reports on obesity and its purported link to sugar-sweetened beverages from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity read like a broken record these days.

In the center s latest pronouncement, aimed at a presentation at the American Public Health Association s annual meeting, a group led by the Rudd Center s Jennifer Harris is wagging its collective finger at certain beverage companies for marketing full-calorie drinks and those that contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine directly to children.

Sodas, energy drinks, and fruit drinks are not healthy for children or teens, says Samantha Heller, a clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Connecticut. They are not healthy for anyone, actually, she adds. Heller proclaims that parents need to stop introducing such sweetened beverages into the home and should instead offer their kids water, low-fat milk, or soy milk.

The whole report has a very moralistic and judgmental tone,says ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. Apparently if your child is not content with water or milk, then you re just not doing a good job at parenting. But perhaps it s not the actual ad campaigns that are driving kids to these sugary drinks.

Recent research cited by these same anti-soda advocates suggests that processed foods and sugar-laden beverages are actually addictive just like cocaine and other drugs. Anti-soda campaigner Dr. Kelly Brownell, who directs Yale University s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, believes that such a food addiction does indeed exist; he goes so far as to compare it to the nicotine addiction that smokers experience. But as one researcher who has communicated with ACSH notes, addiction cannot be defined by the way people act since anything perceived as pleasurable will register in the brain's reward pathway.

That alone is not enough evidence to conclude that something is addictive, however. Their evidence of a given substance s addictiveness comes from brain scans, notes ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. At this point, such imaging is hardly anything that should be directly correlated with human behavior. These folks are just hoping to build a legal case against the foods they arbitrarily find undesirable, he adds. And they're likening food companies to Big Tobacco in order to accomplish just that.