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Childhood obesity caused by 'toxic environment' of Western diets, study says

ulin," he adds.

Lustig says that it has long been known that the hormone insulin acts on the brain to encourage eating through two separate mechanisms. First, it blocks the signals that travel from the body's fat stores to the brain by suppressing the effectiveness of the hormone leptin, resulting in increased food intake and decreased activity. Second, insulin promotes the signal that seeks the reward of eating carried by the chemical dopamine, which makes a person want to eat to get the pleasurable dopamine "rush."

Calorie intake and expenditure normally are regulated by leptin, Lustig says. When leptin is functioning properly it "increases physical activity, decreases appetite, and increases feelings of well-being." Conversely, when leptin is suppressed, feelings of well-being and activity decrease and appetite increases a state called "leptin resistance."

Changes in food processing during the past 30 years, particularly the addition of sugar to a wide variety of foods that once never included sugar and the removal of fiber, both of which promote insulin production, have created an environment in which our foods are essentially addictive, he adds.

Lustig also notes that children cannot be blamed or expected to take personal responsibility for their dietary behavior in an environment when the foods they are offered especially cheaply prepared "fast foods" that are full of sugar and devoid of fiber are toxic.

"The concept of personal responsibility is not tenable in children. No child chooses to be obese," he says. "Furthermore, young children are not responsible for food choices at home or at school, and it can hardly be said that preschool children, in whom obesity is rampant, are in a position to accept personal responsibility."

"If we don't fix this, our children will continue to lose," he emphasizes.


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Contact: Phyllis Brown
pbrown@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
11-Aug-2006


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