Whether or not junk food should be packaged like cigarettes instead of eye-catching wrappers, puts me in a corner. The neuroscience minor inside of me can see the upside of taking away what draws us to buy junk foods, to begin with, but on the other hand, as a nutritional science major, I believe that health is about establishing good habits and learning how to live better it's not about tricks.
Neuroscientist Wolfram Schultz from the University of Cambridge has done extensive research on the brain's reward systems and he thinks taking control of it could be the key to solving the obesity problem.
Schultz found that brightly packaged foods trigger a dopamine response in the brain, basically forcing us to overeat. Schultz is not the first to question marketing's role in the obesity crisis.
Canada, Chile, France, Ireland, Mexico, Norway and Taiwan have decided that enough is enough and established bans that prohibit food companies from marketing foods to kids that are high in sugar, fat or salt.
Meanwhile, in the United States, children view an average of one food advertisement per five minutes of tv time.
Because treats like junk food can be included in a balanced diet occasionally without causing adverse health effects, some think comparing them to cigarettes is a stretch. While there is no safe smoking level, when it comes to health, it really is all about moderation.
I think the solution to this problem is somewhere between putting graphic images of the effects of obesity on junk food and letting big business make our decisions for us.
The United States has started to make public health changes like the new school lunch guidelines but should join the movement to protect kids against marketing schemes. Because our decision-making parts of the brain develop through adolescence, watching commercials for sugary or fattening foods can affect our eating habits long term.
Instead of changing the packaging out of all junk foods, removing the cartoons and flashy wrappings off of the ones geared towards kids is a more doable effort. This will allow kids to form their own eating habits and will eventually lead to healthier adults who are capable of making the best decisions for their body.
Eating is supposed to be fun and enjoyable and junk food is 100% a part of that experience. Teaching people how to consciously make the right choices, instead of taking the bad ones out of sight, will lead to more sustainable weight loss and lifelong health.
They weren't kidding when they said take everything in moderation, plus I'm convinced that chocolate keeps us sane.