Food related bad news is everywhere this morning, beginning with this story: Money doesn't buy happiness, as we know. But evidently fast food does. Researches at the University of Arkansas teamed up with the University of Taiwan to extrapolate from a long term study of Taiwanese children, a quarter of whom are now clinically obese. The results, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, found that the kids whose parents regularly let them eat fast food -- cokes, pizza, and burgers -- were significantly happier than the kids who weren't allowed to eat junk. They were also fatter, but hey, there's something behind the old saw, "Fat and Happy."
This study raised a bunch of questions in my mind, but it also didn't surprise me much. We all know by now that eating fat and sugar stimulates the brain's pleasure centers. It's not like fat Taiwanese kids are the only people on the planet who like candy and french fries. We're born with a taste for sugar because we're genetically engineered to go for the most calorie dense foods; it's a survival strategy. The study concludes that any intervention to thwart childhood obesity is going to have to include other, non-food-related, ways to generate the same kinds of thrills as eating a Big Mac. And that made me kind of sad. You wonder how limited these kids lives must be if KFC is the big highlight of their existence.
And, just as dispiriting:
A recent survey has found that Americans are extremely intelligent when it comes to hearing about food recalls and passing on the info to their friends and family. But when it comes to actually going through their fridge and cupboards to toss those poisoned pistachios or toxic fish fingers -- we're dumb as a box of hammers. Most of us evidently believe that food poisoning happens to other people: we don't buy those Clif Bars and pints of peanut butter ice cream. Surely our free-range, farm-raised piglet meat couldn't possibly be harboring trichinosis. I'm not pointing any fingers, I'm guilty as charged. I'd need to hire a steam shovel to go through my cupboards anyway: there's stuff in there that hasn't seen the light of day for a decade, and I aim to keep it that way.