Sometimes mass tort litigation feels a lot like being in the movie "Groundhog Day". The names and the products may change from day to day but the plaintiffs', the true believers' and the media's overarching narrative is always some aspect of the one refined in the tobacco litigation. One such narrative goes towards abrogating personal responsibility and does so by purporting to show that a product is both irresistibly addictive and insidiously malignant.
Today's vignette is thanks to a (free) paper just published in Nature Neuroscience titled "Dopamine D2 Receptors in Addiction-Like Reward Dysfunction and Compulsive Eating in Obese Rats". In the study being reported eleven rats got their fill of "bacon, sausage, cheesecake, pound cake, frosting and chocolate", eleven others got to pig out on "bacon, sausage ..." but for only one hour per day while nine other rats got nothing but "rat chow". Shockingly, the rats stuck in a cage all day with nothing to do but eat pound cake with frosting put on weight.
Various permutations of the experiment were run including some involving IHC staining with fluorescent proteins so that the now obligatory brilliantly colored photomicrographs could be produced. Some other rats considering pigging out were "punished" with electric foot shocks while yet others had "stimulating" electrodes implanted in their brains and held in place by four stainless steel skull screws.
The pound cake with frosting didn't affect life expectancy since all the rats were sacrificed two weeks after their 40 day food odyssey. However, the researchers found evidence of classic addiction response whereby reward mechanisms (pound cake with frosting makes you happy) were gradually suppressed by the body as it tried to adjust to the good times and maintain homeostasis so that more and more pound cake with frosting was needed to reproduce the initial reward level. The rat chow rats and the one hour per day bingers on the other hand lived out their 54 days in much slimmer bodies and with the normal compliment of dopamine receptors implying that living in a cage and eating rat chow is not excessively rewarding.
The quote above from Gene-Jack Wang, M.D. was found at The Situationist in its write-up of the Nature Neuroscience article. He's also quoted as saying that purified modern food makes people eat "unconsciously" and animals "eat like a drug abuser [uses drugs]". Wang is said to be the chair of the medical department at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory.