Guyenet's Food Reward Theory: necessary and sufficient conditions?

In a series of recent posts called "Food Reward: a Dominant Factor in Obesity," Stephan Guyenet of Whole Health Source has put forward the not entirely original notion that divers tastey foods make people obese by triggering overeating via the brain's dopamine reward system.

Following the government's "Decade of the Brain" push, all HCPs should have at least a minor working knowledge of this reward system.
Essentially, says Guyenet, having lots of different tastey foods available means you can always choose foods that will maximize your dopamine reward from eating. Like a junky needing bigger doses of cocaine to get high, Americans with global cuisines and processed foods full of fat and sugar at their disposal at any time need to overeat to get their fix. Thus, obesity.

Although I think there's something there, I am skeptical for a number of reasons, including:
  • Conceptually, there is a black box between food reward and overeating. Until the brain-mind-behavior connection is explicated more fully, I would be wary of attributing too much to symplistic feed-back models. Especially when, unlike cocaine, the connection between biochemistry of rewarding food and brain circuits is tenuous.
  • Practically, this takes us no-where in moving forward in public health/primary care. From a healthcare perspective, a "Food Reward" theory is not fundamentally more complex or informative than saying that people eat too much because they like food and don't control themselves. The question why some people get fat from Food Reward is like the question why some people become coke addicts: you get bogged down in all sorts of behavioral questions and political assumptions. I made this criticism on Stephan's blog and another commenter responded by falling back on some sociological research, which just proved my point.
  • Practically, on an individual basis, a 'Food Reward Diet' essentially says "lose weight by not eating the things that appeal to you." Needless to say, this is a losing strategy for weight loss.
  • Importantly, it doesn't explain adequately to me the data, whether from research or N=1. For example, as I pointed out on Stephan's blog, Gina Kolata points to research showing that both skinny and fat people engage in emotionally-driven eating. This suggests that other factors mediate in the gain of body fat. Also, how did I lose all that weight on the Atkins Diet and then later, again, eating my own modified Paleo Diet (meat, greens, wine, booze, and dessert restricted to ice cream), when I ate all I wanted?
This N=1 experience brings me up to tonight. Feeling tired, I got myself some espresso and started having intense cravings for sugary dessert when I was out. This led me to thinking: why aren't I craving non-sugary high-Glycemic-Index foods that will look the same to my belly as donuts?

Donut? Ravenously hungry. Bread? No, not hungry now. Bread with Nutella? Meh...

Also, I ask myself, current circumstances notwithstanding, why are my donut cravings in general reduced when I cut out bread?

To me, my experience raises the question whether there are necessary and sufficient eating conditions for manipulating any food reward system. Stephan essentially recommends eating bland, hard-to-prepare foods. Maybe it is sufficient just to cut out some forms of carbs? Or maybe it is necessary to cut out some forms of carbs?

My personal upbringing was one in which a quasi-hippie mother shopped at a local food co-op. I never had sugary breakfast cereals, candy, cookies, etc in the home. According to Stephan's poisonous modern culture theory of overstimulation, I should have been one of the fittest and leanest young chaps around. But I wasn't. In fact, anything with carbs from milk to pasta was fair game for snacking. It wasn't until carbs were cut that things got under control. I like fat, but I don't binge-snack on bacon. No desire.

I don't think carbohydrates are physiologically damaging, but so far I haven't seen anything in either the Paleo or Food Reward paradigms that isn't basically taken care of by Atkins, right down to his induction phase (the at-home Betty Ford Clinic of the Food Reward Diet).

Food show & rights/security

The National Archives is currently hosting an exhibit on food and the government.
From what I can tell looking at the preview, there isn't any history of food politics such as that related by Gary Taubes. Perhaps it is too much to expect the National Archives to critique the government.

security guards and your rights

A story circulating about some people who were deported and lost their home from an over-ambitious Walmart security guard, makes me think everyone should know their rights vis-a-vis security guards. Remember, security guards have no arrest rights beyond that of the odinary citizen. People never engage in citizen's arrest because it is a tricky business in which you have to actually see a crime committed in order to apprehend someone. Security guards only have the right of citizen's arrest, which means that if they tell you to stop and you keep going, they can't force you unless they actually observed you committing a crime. If they restrain you and you haven't committed a crime, they are liable for assault. They have no right to demand identification or take other police measures. Security guards know this, but they rely on people's ignorance of the law.

both h/t bOINGbOING

Lego healthcare

In view of recent posts, and not to miss out on the ostensible purpose of this blog...

There is a Lego nurse figurine now.
Note that the nurse is female, and holds a chart and a needle rather than, say, a stethoscope. The fact that she wears a small watch pinned to her uniform indicates that this figurine was probably designed by Europeans, as the pin-watch seems to be popular in England but not in the US. (Note that studies published in the APIC journal show that wrist-watches are not a vector of infection.) The needle, of course, is a typical symbol of nurses, as per my posts on The Sexy Nurse.

In keeping with this theme of medical unrealism, Lego produces a doctor figurine who drives a cross between a monster truck and an ambulance. When was the last time you heard of a doctor riding on an ambulance?
An independent/amateur builder has done a more realistic job of creating a nurse figurine by combining the body of a doctor with the situation and other accoutrements of a nurse.
Note that this nurse wears a stethoscope and is carrying a glass of water for the patient. This is actually much more realistic than the nurse carrying a chart.

These Lego doctors and nurses come after much earlier attempts.
In the very early days of Lego, figurines were not as small and were more "built" looking.
This hospital is, I believe, one of the earlier sets availabe.

This hospital/trauma center is one of the later sets.

And this more realistic and more life-sized medical center was created by another amateur builder, I believe.

Admittedly, a hospital is a large and complex place without much outward design cues to help when rendering into Lego, so it's not such a surprise that there aren't more. Scenes from medical life seem to be more common.
I'm putting my money on an opthamologist's office here.

And these are clearly surgical suites.

This x-ray is my favoriate, although it is more a staged photo than a built scene.

Click on this photo to see it full size: a life-sized Lego reconstruction of a robotic surgical assist.

And last but not least, this Lego re-enactment of VE Day.

Lego indulgence

Okay, this isn't on topic at all, but I found two great (Neolithic) Lego images. The first is the best photo I've ever seen of the knights from the old Yellow Castle sets. I had these when I was very young, and the movable visors remained my favorite Lego parts for years. The second are the best Lego knights I've ever seen. Custom?

I'm still bummed after all these years that Lego never made Romans, although some builders have made their own.

Sailer reviews Nim Chimpsky movie

AmCom movie critic Steve Sailer reviews the documentary "Nim Chimsky" over at TakiMag.
While chimps and bonobos are interesting comparison studies of human behavior, the fact that we name them with cute names in order to remember anything about them should give us an answer as to the question raised by the subjects in the documentary. That is, the ability of chimps to acquire language ability like humans. If the researchers had really believed Nim would grow up to have language abilities, they would have named him something like Albert or Thomas and expected him to exhibit mature behaviors.

Lego anatomy

Lego grok, part deux

Yesterday I posted the Lego caveman figurine and the models people are making for it.
Today, some paleo Lego images for the more academically-minded...

Lego makes a skeleton:
are there no paleopathology builders?

via Skull-a-day
(what clade?)

big game
by Jordan Schwartz

excavation site by

hunter-gatherers of North America

excavation site
by Julian of Toronto

Lego grok

I used to love Legos, but I haven't paid much attention in the last 15 years or so. Apparently, there is a caveman figurine now, and builders are using it in inventive ways...

Sir Nadroj's woolly mammoth
(this is my favorite)

Cheth studios
(a la The National Museum of Natural History)

Breivik on Maslow: cultural Marxist

My relatives in Norway e-mailed right away to tell us they were okay. We didn't even know there had been a bombing in Oslo. Details are grim, especially of the shooting, and the bomb blast looks to have been quite devastating.

The bomber Anders Bering Breivik is the son of a liberal Norwegian diplomat and a nurse.

His fantastic self-styling as a latter-day Templar says to me that he was not quite in touch with reality. Perhaps not crazy, but so wrapped up in theoretical and historical concerns that he lost a sense of proportion. He wasn't stupid, though. As others have pointed out, he planned all this methodically, and he also hacked his mind and body with weightlifting, steroids, and meditation in order to maintain the motivation required to finish his plan.

He seems to have actually read scholarly works on intellectual history. His 1500-page manifesto, titled 2083: A European Declaration of Independance is available in its entirety as a PDF download from the Internet Archive.

In keeping with the main theme of this blog, I point to Breivik's comments on Abraham Maslow. Anyone who has been through an Intro to Psychology course has probably heard of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The Hierarchy has been the basis of various theories of health and nursing.
In Breivik's perspective, Maslow was either a part of or a dupe of Marxist plans to overthrow western capitalism slowly, by undermining the cultural and spiritual basis of European civilization.

Although this sounds a little crazy, it's actually not. As I said, Breivik seems to have read scholarly works of intellectual history, and the connections he makes between Marxist revolution and liberal political correctness exist, even if they don't constitute a conspiracy. Here's an excerpt from 2083 on Marxism, feminism, and Maslow:
In 1923, Lukacs and other Marxist intellectuals associated with the Communist Party of Germany founded the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University in Frankfurt, Germany. The Institute, which became known as the Frankfurt School, was modelled after the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow...

The Frankfurt School’s studies combined Marxist analysis with Freudian psychoanalysis to criticise the bases of Western culture...

Through her book The Feminine Mystique, Friedan tied Feminism to Abraham Maslow’s theory of self-actualisation. Maslow was a social psychologist who in his early years did research on female dominance and sexuality. Maslow was a friend of Herbert Marcuse at Brandeis University and had met Erich Fromm in 1936. He was strongly impressed by Fromm’s Frankfurt School ideology. He wrote an article, “The Authoritarian Character Structure,” published in 1944, that reflected the personality theory of Critical Theory. Maslow was also impressed with the work of Wilhelm Reich, who was another Frankfurt School originator of personality theory.

The significance of the historical roots of Political Correctness cannot be fully appreciated unless Betty Friedan’s revolution in sex roles is viewed for what it really was – a manifestation of the social revolutionary process begun by Karl Marx. Friedan’s reliance on Abraham Maslow’s reflection of Frankfurt School ideology is only one indicator... The belief that matriarchy was the solution to patriarchy flows from Marx’s comments in The German Ideology, published in 1845...
It's too bad Breivik didn't idolize the knights hospitaller rather than the knights templar. Then he might have joined the Most Sovereign Order of Malta and become a health care professional rather than a muderer.

Murdoch family anti-Paleo?

Rupert Murdoch is much in the news. Listening to RadioDerb today, I learned of the attempted pie-ssassination of Murdoch and his defense by wife Wendi Deng, now known as "Tiger wife." Here's an excerpt from Derb:
At an opportune moment Mr Marbles stepped forward with his pie and started swinging it in the direction of Repurt Murdoch's kisser. Rupert's other kisser, which is to say his wife Wendi, was sitting right behind Rupert. Before Mr Marbles could connect pie with face, the enraged Wendi leapt to her feet, leaned forward over hubby, and gave the assailant an almighty smack upside the head. Quote from Mr Marbles, talking to reporters after security people had tackled him & led him away, quote: "I remember the rage in her eyes. I could see there was genuine emotion in her eyes. I wouldn't like to have a re-match with her."
To me, that sounds pretty cool. I can't approve of trophy wives, but if you're going to have one, that's the kind to have. Wendi is no wilting flower, either.
However, if we look her up on Wikipedia, we discover that Mrs. Murdoch is vegan.
Murdochs are vegan?!

For some people, this probably poses an ideological conundrum of the variety
Murdochs are vegan;
Vegans are good;
Ergo, Murdochs are good... arrrgh!
For me, it is an altogether different sort of conundrum. Could it be that Wendi is still fit and pretty at 40 because she's a vegan? Or could it be that she has pretty much unlimited time and money to spend on healthcare? Hmmm... vegan, or unlimited access to drugs, supplements, cosmetics, trainers, and designers devoted to making her look youthful and healthy?

Dr. Jeffry Life

Previously, I posted the image of Cenegenics' Dr. Life from TIME magazine's article "Amortality" on longevity. Here is the photo from the print edition, not available online, of Dr. Life at age 72.

Of course, Dr. Life is using expensive supplements such as growth hormone and testosterone. However, it should be pointed out that he works out a lot; as bodybuilders will tell you, drugs and supplements are not an easy path to building muscle. Frankly, he compares well not only with the other 70 year old patients we get in the ICU, but with the 20yo patients we get, too. I know that having a beach body is not synonymous with health, but based on my experience so far it's a strong signal.