Yesterday’s Globe had an interview with Dr. David Kessler, a former FDA commissioner who has just written a book called “The End of Overeating.” Kessler maintains that America’s obesity epidemic is caused primarily by two things: (1) humans have an “innate drive to eat sugar, salt, and fat” and (2) the food industry has taken advantage of that drive by making highly processed foods that are packed with those three substances. Foods in their natural state – think fruits and vegetables – are more difficult to chew and digest, so we’re less likely to eat more of them than we need. Processed foods – think baked goods and candy – are easy to chew, easy to swallow, and quick to digest. Before we realize we are full, we’ve already consumed more of them.
Kessler isn’t advocating the creation of a food police force; he just wants people to be aware of the science involved. With that knowledge, and a with a greater awareness of the composition of what we’re eating, we’re more likely to make better food choices. He says will power is not enough and exercise, while vitally important to a healthy life, is not the answer to overeating. When you consider that a 300 calorie candy bar takes 2 minutes to eat but 60 minutes of brisk walking to burn off, you understand why. As I see it, Kessler is telling us that when we are more aware of what we eat, we’ll chose foods that are healthier and we’ll eat smaller portions, something that’s tough to do when bombarded by advertising-aided, inexpensive, tasty, and addictive processed foods.