Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The echo of drug addict's patterns

Is leaving quite an imprint in the conclusions from the study reported here. Apparently it concluded fat and slim women respond differently to larger amounts of their favourite calorie dense snack foods.

Exposure to these portions, after performing tasks which would give points which went towards getting their chosen foods, found slim women's disgust reflex kicked in causing the desire for that item to decline

Which more or less is what's supposed to happen, to protect you from getting too much of certain kinds of nutrients and too little of others. 

The fat women tested worked harder for the larger portion of their snack.

This high motivation to eat the same thing is an eating skill more commonly found in situations where poor people have to eat the same kinds of affordable foodstuffs. This ability enables them to continue to appreciate them and maintain motivation to do what is necessary to get the means to feed themselves.

This is something of the adaptability and range of skills built into our eating. Leaving aside qualms about the pretence that fat and slim women are someone how undifferentiated phenotypes who eat and respond to food according to their groupings.

The question about why these particular subtle discrepancies is potentially fascinating.

Would it be too fanciful to wonder whether these particular fat women were poorer than the slim ones? Could they have been chosen from a different pool? Perhaps the slim women were taken from among the researchers and the fat women from elsewhere?

I'm speculating with fanciful abandon.

If this is some adaptation to the usual impositions on fat people, it could be more about the effect on dietary habits. The ever present mindset of attempting to deny oneself energy overall and/or through avoidance of calorie dense foods, could mean the suspension of the disgust reflex. To facilitate a sort of grab it while you can impulse to meet the constant threat of energy scarcity/ certain desirable foods.
Scientists have postulated that one reason for the high failure rate [of dieting] is that people feel deprived of their favorite foods and end up making up for their period of abstinence.
You can see if this "abstinence" is on-going, or even just a constant threat hanging over someone, the response could be on going as well, instead of temporary.

Though slim people diet, it tends to be more episodic, rather than a permanent way of thinking. 
In some cases, [fat] women reported still wanting the food even though they didn't like it.
So in some, the disgust reflex may have been functioning. Yet the urge to get these foods was out of sync with it. That is a well known feature of deprivation or the permanent (and highly charged) threat of it. When the integrity of the appetite isn't responded to on cue it can become sort of unfit, sluggish, a bit ragged at the edges.
The pattern is strikingly similar to that seen in drug addicts. "We're exploring this idea of sensitization, which happens with drug use," Temple said. "Response to a drug will actually decrease over repeated use." And that leads to more drug use.
The first sentence is suspect and manages to provoke curiousity. When the next refers to "sensitization" it's really pointing to how the body reduces the amount of endogenous opiates-due to the intake of similar via drug use-to prevent overdose. This is the real basis of addiction, your body not making enough of the chemicals needed to enable you to function smoothly.

That isn't the same as an appetite that may be misfiring, "running on" past aversion due to being frustrated and thwarted by restriction or the permanent threat of it.

The key to the lessening response to drugs mentioned- through repeated use- is a reduction of the amount of similar chemicals made inside the body. Similar to one of the main problems of managing chronic conditions long term. Ones where you have to take in some substance the body is failing to make enough of.

The very top-up that is saving your health, can provoke further decline of that function in your body. That's how it tends to behave, making less of what can be taken in as its ability to measure its needs declines with regulation from outside.

What would be interesting is if they could name what that would be in the case of eating. What does eating provide that would be causing an atrophy of mechanisms inside?
"This suggests to me that people who were obese were not eating out of hunger," Grant said. "There was some other need that eating was filling for them."
They'd have to answer that question, otherwise the comparison would be not only wrong but rather pointless and confusing.
"I stop short of calling overeating an addiction," she added. "I don't think it has all of the same properties, but I think we can learn something about overeating behavior from the drug world. We're applying the same experimental paradigms to food and trying to see if obese people might be more susceptible to having an increased response to repeated food administration."
Well, that's a relief. We can gain unexpected insight by comparing things. That doesn't necessarily mean they are the same. Again, the framing of  being "susceptible to having an increased response to repeated food administration" is misapplied, as that isn't the crux of what happens with addiction.

Repeated drug use lessens the bodies ability to revert back to it's normal production of the type of chemicals being ingested. What they are comparing it to sounds more like an appetite that has adapted to the threat of withdrawal of fuel. Hardly the same thing.
"This suggests to me that people who were obese were not eating out of hunger," Grant said. "There was some other need that eating was filling for them."
 It suggests they remain motivated to work for the type of foods that many feel they should deny themselves, negative emotion is not conducive to enjoying food. Which could be the missing thing, the continuous ability to fully enjoy food from a guilt free basis. Without censure or harsh judgement or fear to dampen it.

There are many fat people out there who have forgotten or don't even know what its like to behave normally around certain kinds of food. For the "some" especially, it could actually have been the first time they'd felt permitted to eat these foods freely. Their bodies could have been responding to that as much as anything.

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