The Demise of the Twinkie and What It Tells Us About the Addictive Properties of Fake Food

Disclaimer: This is not my story but one I am reblogging.

The Demise of the Twinkie and What It Tells Us About the Addictive Properties of Fake Food
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Published on November 27, 2012, By Dr Bill Wilson
Writing on the Carb Syndrome Project blog, Dr Bill Wilson discusses the imminent possible demise of Twinkies and, while sad for anyone losing their job, says Twinkies embody everything that is wrong with fake food in our culture and describes them as causing as many problems for society and health as addictive drugs. This is from Carb Syndrome Project…

Years ago when I was a nutritional virgin and life novice, I admit that I consumed my share of Twinkies and similar fare. No, they certainly weren’t ever a mainstay of my diet, but I was like most kids growing up in America at the time—what’s the harm in consuming a tasty treat once in awhile? If it were truly harmful, certainly somebody would have let us know. It was only later that I started to realize that when it comes to health, diet really does matter. As a practicing physician, I’ve had a front row seat in the downward cascade of our collective health as we have migrated to a diet largely based on processed fake food.

The Invention of Fake Food
Twinkies were actually invented in 1930–decades before I was born, by James Alexander Dewar, a baker for the Continental Baking Company. Twinkies are notable because they were one the first fully processed fake foods to become popular in American culture. When you look at the list of ingredients in a Twinkie listed below, you will notice that they contain just about every dietary bad-boy ingredient known to mankind:

Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Corn Syrup, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Soybean, Cottonseed and/or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Whole Eggs, Dextrose. Contains 2% or Less of: Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Leavenings (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sweet Dairy Whey, Soy Protein Isolate, Calcium and Sodium Caseinate, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour, Cornstarch, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), Yellow 5, Red 40.

This was clearly the moon-shot of the Food Industrial Complex—a packaged treat that could last on the shelf for weeks or months without losing its appeal. When this type of fake food first entered our food supply, it was unclear if there would be any adverse health consequences. The same was true for cigarette smoking. When it comes to chronic toxins, it often takes decades for the adverse outcomes to surface. We now know that this type of fake food leads to a long list of metabolic and brain disorders.

Unless you have been living in a cave, you’ve likely heard that The Continental Baking Company is planning to liquidate their operations because of conflicts with several of their unions. Once the word got out, it wasn’t long before people began offering Twinkies on e-Bay and other places for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. People waited in long lines to get their last fix of Twinkies or Ding Dongs. This suggests that there are more than a few junk food addicts out there.

Twinkaholics
What makes this type of food so addictive for some people? Although we aren’t sure, some suggest that this type of “pleasurable” food stimulates the reward centers in our brain, creating an addictive cycle. Eating Twinkies results in a dopamine rush and just like any other addictive substance, over time it takes more of the addictive substance to bring about this pleasure rush. If this is true, I’m surprised that people aren’t snorting or injecting Twinkies!

I have a slightly different perspective. In my opinion, people who eat this type of food are driven by pathological cravings for sweet and starchy foods. All of us have hunger drives and carbohydrate cravings hardwired into our brains, but during our evolutionary history they served a different purpose. Our brain carefully monitors our glucose levels and if they start to drop because we haven’t eaten for a period of time, our brain sends out hunger signals. Because our brain relies mostly on glucose for its energy needs, it doesn’t tolerate dropping levels of glucose very well.
If we don’t respond to these hunger signals in a timely manner, our brain starts to get a little worried. As glucose levels continue to drop from a lack of food, our brain pulls out the big gun—carbohydrates craving signals. Our brain wants us to skip the mastodon steak and go for a low glycemic carbohydrate like tubers, berries or fruit because this is the fastest way to restore glucose levels…

Dr Wilson goes on to conclude:
The Continental Baking Company hopes to sell their products to other companies in the bankruptcy process so someone else will continue to make Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread. I for one hope they will fail. I know–18,000 people will likely lose their jobs in this process, but my hope is that someone will hire them in an industry that produces real food. How about the health food or fitness industries? Perhaps stopping our government from subsidizing the commodities in Twinkies would be a good place to start, shifting the money to the production of real food. After all, I don’t think too many people would feel bad if 18,000 drug dealers lost their jobs. This is especially salient now that we know that there is little difference between the addictive properties of Twinkies and addictive drugs, and junk food likely causes more medical problems in our society than all addictive drugs put together. So farewell Twinkie The Kid—you certainly won’t be missed by this writer.

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