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Video Of My AHS 2012 Presentation: "What Is Hunger, and Why Are We Hungry?" - J. Stanton
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January 31, 2013
7:18 pm
pam
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Hi, JS,

thanks for taking the time to elaborate. beer is a good example.

it seems to me the both you & Dr. SG have no disagreement that some food makes us overeat. well, we're all aware of it.

however, you trust the body more that it would compensate in the long term. he does not seem to think so.

by the same token, if satiety can't be fooled forever, it would be interesting to learn the long term success success of a (mostly) mono-food diet, e.g., bland potato, bland liquid diet.

cheers,

January 31, 2013
7:47 pm
pam
Guest

ps. sorry me again.

i agree that "rewarding" & "palatability" are not intrinsic value of a food. & "rewarding" is particularly obsfucating (to me).
sort of like the wave function in QM (incomplete & not self contained)

cheers,

January 31, 2013
10:11 pm
Beowulf
Guest

I have to say that I liked your series on hunger much better than the video, but I'm an information junky, and a short presentation just can't contain as much as a series of articles. It was still a well-done presentation, but I just have my biases. ūüôā

It's amazing how much our food preferences can change over time on an individual level. When I was a kid, I hated dark chocolate, and now my favorite stuff is 90% dark. My sister and I hated broccoli, but now there's practically a fight at Christmas dinner over the last portion. I thought visible fat was gross-feeling/tasting, but at lunch today I happily munched on several pieces of slow-roasted beef fat that were hanging out with the muscle meat. If anything, this shows how decidedly non-intrinsic the "palatability" of food is.

I'll second the cheese thing. When I was vegetarian, I ate loads of cheese. Now with plenty of meat and fat back in my diet, I hardly eat any. I have found, however, that while I don't crave cheese if it's not around, I will quickly make a block of cheddar disappear if it's in the house no matter how well-fed I am. Old habits die hard.

February 1, 2013
5:16 am
eddie watts
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great video, as above commenter stated not as good as the series but you only had 20 mins.
very energetic and easy going speaker, came across well.

i think someone seeing the video would need to know some background before they "get it" though.

i cannot see how anyone with knowledge in the area (such as obtained through reading your blog for example) could not get the points you are raising.

February 1, 2013
3:50 pm
Lisa
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Re: Meanwhile, are you unhappy with your body composition, or just surprised at your ability to dispose of calories?

Well, I keep thinking that after eating so well (zero grains, no beans, very little fruit & super quality protein, veg and fat) for 16+ months I would look like a fitness model... not the case ūüėČ

I'm guessing from all my primal/paleo reading that I'm still just consuming too many calories even though they are the nutrient dense and not empty kind. I just plain love to eat and have got the food reward thing going on.

I loved the video and your work- thank you for being there for us!

February 2, 2013
9:51 am
Madison, WI, USA
Gnoll
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Well Lisa,

 

Weight loss is hardly liner and the body always strives for a homeostasis. 

"Often we forget . . . the sky reaches to the ground . . . with each step . . . we fly."  ~We Fly, The House Jacks

February 3, 2013
5:10 am
Indiana
Gnoll
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I think that *my mental* ideal shape/size is probably lower than my formerly morbidly obese body's set point.

 

I don't know your situation Lisa, but maybe it's similar.  I can gain muscle pretty good 'for a girl', but I've still got a fine thick layer of fat on it.    If it doesn't resolve itself in time via sane exercise frequency and sane eating, I'm just going to say that I'm saving up for the famine and live with it.

February 5, 2013
1:20 pm
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Chuck:

I believe the issue is that they're depending on Harvard student volunteers to edit the videos together...but I could be wrong.

pam:

I believe the research is clear: failure to achieve satiety is the primary driver of hunger, and therefore the primary driver of obesity.  The problem isn't that food suddenly became tasty or "rewarding" in 1980: it clearly did not, and any hypothesis that depends on such a non-fact is intrinsically bankrupt.  

The facts point me towards this conclusion: the primary problem is that people are eating more and more non-nutritious foods that leave us malnourished and hungry, due primarily to the demonization of cholesterol and saturated fat, and to the replacement of nourishing foods like eggs and beef with a massive increase in the consumption of low-fat packaged and processed non-foods.  

As we've seen, food has greater hedonic impact (colloquially known as "palatability") to a hungry person than a sated person.  So yes, palatability drives consumption to some degree -- but hunger drives palatability.  Concentrating on taste as the driver of consumption is like thinking that you can make a car accelerate by moving the speedometer needle: it's an effect, not a cause.

You might be interested in the prelude to the hunger series, Why Snack Food Is Addictive.  Executive summary: taste without nutrition.  

Beowulf:

I look forward to writing more articles that explore the subjects from my presentation in detail.

And yes, perception of "palatability" can change radically over time, which is another strike against the idea that food has an intrinsic property called "reward" that drives consumption.  Those are great examples!

eddie:

There's a lot of fog in the air.  "Food reward" is one of those seductively simple concepts that turns out to not just be wrong -- like phlogiston, it actively impedes our understanding of what's really happening.

Lisa, E Craig:

Without knowing what you're eating right now and how much weight you've already lost, I can't possibly give useful advice.

However, I find that snacking is a typical culprit...especially snacking on nuts, which are generally high in omega-6 (which disrupts hunger signaling) and very calorie-dense.  Nut flours are even worse.

Sometimes it's worth simply eating a bit more slowly...if your food is so delicious, why not savor it a bit longer?  You'll probably find yourself eating less as a result.

Also, it is often the case that the formerly obese can never achieve fitness-model bodyfat levels without some amount of surgery...their hormonal environment is simply different than someone who never had 100 extra pounds to lose.  ItsTheWooo talks about that at length on her blog, in between the rants.

 

Thanks, everyone, for your support and comments!  Please spread this anywhere you see people getting stuck in the naive model, i.e. debates over "What food is more rewarding?"

JS

February 5, 2013
7:15 pm
Morris
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@J.Stanton
There may be other reasons for hunger besides reward etc. as in my case. I did a year- long dietary trial, during which the caloric intake varied from 1800 to 3400 and then down to 2100Kcal. I did not feel hungry at the low end but did not feel strong and at the high end I struggled to get that many Kals per day and did not gain much weight. On completion of the trial I ate ‚Äúat libitum‚ÄĚ and gradually my intake has levelled to about 1800-1900 and regulates itself without my conscious attention. Now, 13 months later, some days I have little hunger and eat only 1 meal. Prior to beginning my experiments my intake was about 2200-2300 Kcal (estimated). My problem was (and still is to some extent) connective tissue infection, not weight. Perhaps the extra energy was going to the immune system or to microbes. I also found that I could not gage (I tried first guessing weights) calories even roughly without weighing portions and recording daily. For that reason I tend to be skeptical about energy claims. I learned useful things by keeping careful records

February 5, 2013
9:56 pm
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Morris:

That's a great example.  It's tempting to talk about "setpoints" and leave the discussion there -- but as I've said before, "A 'setpoint' is just a homeostasis we don't understand."  The trillions of cells in our bodies each have metabolic requirements for macro- and micro-nutrients, as well as a functional hormonal environment (the "milieu interieur").  

Likewise, failing to satisfy some of those metabolic requirements may lead to a metabolic slowdown, or it may lead to hunger, or both.  And satisfying them in excess may lead to increased fat storage, to increased muscle building and protein synthesis, to increased heat production, or all three.  (And I haven't listed nearly all of the possible outcomes!)

Yes, it's a complicated problem -- which is why there is no one cause of, or solution to, obesity.

JS

February 6, 2013
4:34 am
Indiana
Gnoll
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J. Stanton said:

Lisa, E Craig:
Without knowing what you're eating right now and how much weight you've already lost, I can't possibly give useful advice.

 

I appreciate it, but too few people think and use the information already available!  I won't be that girl. =)

February 6, 2013
11:48 am
pam
Guest

Hi, JS,

my understanding is: a food becomes "rewarding", or "hyper -palatable" not because what it has, but because what it does NOT have (lack of nutrients we need hence never satisfies the hunger).

this reminds me of the explanation of "original sin" by a theologian. he defined it as "lack of perfection" (something like that)

it does make sense to me. i.e., in other words, original sin does not exist; it's like the empty sector left after one slice is taken eaten. (FYI: i'm not a believer)

A : a set (food stuff)

when ~A has no nutritional value. A becomes rewarding.

where,

~, ! : binary not operator

but ~A notsubset A

sorry, but it's fun.

regards,

February 7, 2013
6:06 pm
Otherworld
Guest

Wow. Just wow.

I don't have any qualifications for this observation, but I suspect that it may take several years (at least) for some obese or other metabolically damaged people to even begin to re-train those trillions of cells to react to a new/nutritionally sound food stream. After all, every one of those cells had to adjust to and survive in an unnatural and inadequate nutritional state for years. This is certainly a tribute to our human ability to adapt and survive in incredibly harsh environments. Might not our bodies need years, not months, to reverse or modify what kept them going (albeit badly)for all those years? Just because we cannot see instant results does not mean nothing is happening.

A small example, not in the category of obesity, but surprising to me: About four years ago, I lost a great deal of my hair quite suddenly. It was a thyroid issue, but the hair did not grow back even after a couple of years. Got used to it, got a wig. I read Perfect Health Diet and nosed around this and other paleo sites and began taking selenium and iodine carefully (start low and go slow) as well as eating paleo. Nothing happened, or so I thought. Then about nine months after starting this regimen, my hair grew back suddenly, all at once, completely. Who woulda thought!

Thanks, JS. I have had to watch the video several times because it is so information dense. I do hope you continue the series.

And, Pam, your comment that what food hasn't, as opposed to what it has, was great. I suspect that it will be a gateway understanding for people who cannot quite get their head around some of the science:D

February 7, 2013
7:12 pm
pam
Guest

@Otherworld,

your experience w/ hair loss is interesting. my hair was getting thin & brittle when i was diagnose w/ mild (subclinical) hypothyroidism. (probably due to combination of work stress + hormonal issue).

my hair has grown back some but not completely.

now your story gives me hope that the hair would come back fully.

theology can be fun; the logic is so convoluted & wacky.
i wonder some theologians were closet non-believers.

February 7, 2013
7:42 pm
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pam:

You are correct that what a food doesn't contain is a greater determinant of consumption than what it does contain.  However, that still doesn't make the food itself "rewarding", or less so.

First, because "reward" is a mashing together of two distinct phenomena: hedonic impact ("palatability") and incentive salience (our "want" for more).

More importantly, because the lack of nutrition doesn't usually make a food taste better!  What the lack of nutrition does is remove a food's ability to produce satiation and satiety.  

Let's return to the classic prime rib vs. Pringles example: prime rib tastes better (it has more hedonic impact) than Pringles.  However, the prime rib contains lots of complete protein, saturated and monounsaturated fats, fat-soluble vitamins, and other nutrients...and complete protein, in particular, is a strong driver of satiation (and, in the future, satiety).  Therefore, we stop eating the prime rib at some point.

In contrast, Pringles are made of nutrient-free refined "vegetable oil" (mostly linoleic acid, for which our bodies have essentially zero use), and a little bit of potato slurry, which is mostly empty starch calories.  They contain a negligible amount of complete protein, and almost nothing in the way of necessary nutrients.  (Also, linoleic acid somewhat disrupts hunger signaling by itself.)  Result: no matter how many Pringles you eat, your body will not get the nutrition it needs to get you through the day -- and the Pringles do not satiate you (or produce satiety).

This is why "food reward" is a useless and misleading concept: in order to explain consumption of (for example) Pringles over prime rib, we have to posit that Pringles have a magical property called "reward" that makes us eat them to excess -- even when we don't like them as much as other foods!  

In contrast, the real science of hunger lets us understand that Pringles indeed have less hedonic impact than prime rib.  However, because they don't contain the nutrients we need to live, they produce far less satiation (and subsequent satiety), which is why we have such difficulty putting down the tube.  

Hedonic impact can help explain why we start eating a food -- but the determinant of consumption is when we stop eating, which is determined by satiation and our current state of satiety.  

And the primary reason that foods don't produce satiation and satiety is because of what they don't contain (as you correctly infer), rather than what they do.

Otherworld:

Fascinating!  

Hair is an interesting case: it grows on a multi-year cycle, and the follicle has to hit the appropriate phase of its life cycle before new hair can grow.  So I suspect a combination of factors: a threshold effect, where your thyroid status had to normalize sufficiently before hair was able to grow again, and the hair itself having to reach the growth phase.

pam:

I suspect there were a lot of non-believers in the Church during medieval times, since (in Europe) it was the only place where reading and writing were taught.  If you were smart, it was basically your only career choice AFAIK.

JS

February 7, 2013
9:48 pm
pam
Guest

sorry, me again.

i think it is more than "what is lacking in nutrients" that makes a food "rewarding".

e.g., leafy greens have nutritional values but not enough protein. they're in want.

but no one can overeat plain leafy green, unless they're covered by fat & seasoned.

some additional factors have to make a food unsatisfying , rewarding & hyper-palatable.

(unsatisfying yet rewarding & hyper-palatable is pretty funny to describe a food, in my opinion)

regards,

February 8, 2013
2:44 am
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pam:

You're still stuck with the naive model as your mental framework.

Here's an analogy: it's not possible to create any of the primary colors (red, green, blue) by the additive mixing of any number of other colors.  No matter how many other colors of light you mix together, you will never produce red light.

Similarly, it's not possible to define or describe precisely defined first-order causes (hedonic impact, incentive salience, satiation, satiety) in terms of imprecisely-defined second-order effects ("rewarding", "hyper-palatable").  No matter how you swizzle these imprecise, second-order terms around, you will never produce a definition of how hunger works.  Consequently, you'll never understand it.

What you need to do is understand the four basic motivations (hedonic impact, incentive salience, satiation, satiety) -- and then define these second-order effects ("unsatisfying, yet rewarding and hyperpalatable") in terms of the four basic motivations.

It's unfortunate that others have confused this issue so deeply by failing to start with well-understood, uncontroversial basic research and terminology.  As I'm sure I've said before, my intent is not to propose Bold New Hypotheses: I view the existing body of well-established science as perfectly adequate to explain observed phenomena, and my intent is to bring that science to my readers as best I can.

 

Back to your example: greens don't have much hedonic impact by themselves (they're "unpalatable") because they contain essentially zero calories -- and we need macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate) as well as micronutrients.  Furthermore, plants generally contain some quantity of anti-nutrients (e.g. polyphenols), which perhaps have hormetic benefit at low doses, but become frankly toxic at higher doses.  There's a reason that we often find a small amount of bitterness to be tasty and piquant, but a large amount to be disgusting.

Furthermore, we require some quantity of fat to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, which is most likely why we find fats and oils on vegetables so tasty! 

Again, "rewarding" is a meaningless term by itself, because it's a mashing together of the subjective properties of hedonic impact and incentive salience.  If we find a food "rewarding", it's because it has some quantity of hedonic impact (enough to make us start eating it) but produces very little satiation or satiety (so there's very little to make us stop eating it).  And as I explain in the speech, availability modulates the end result.

So we can explain the "binging on stale Wheat Thins" phenomenon this way:

Stale Wheat Thins have very little hedonic impact.  

But, since they're a packaged food and the box is already open (which is why it's stale), they are far more available than an omelet, which requires getting out the frying pan, heating it up, cooking eggs, chopping vegetables, cleaning up, etc.  In contrast, all we have to do in order to eat the Wheat Thins is open the pantry and grab the box.

The problem is this: once we start eating the stale Wheat Thins, it's difficult to stop...because if we are hungry enough that stale Wheat Thins have any hedonic impact at all (remember: hedonic impact is a subjective property based on our current state of satiation and satiety), stale Wheat Thins are not going to satisfy our hunger!  Since they're basically a bunch of empty carbohydrate calories, linoleic acid, and a tiny bit of incomplete, poorly digestible protein, they produce almost zero satiation or satiety.

Then, since the availability of an open box of Wheat Thins in our hand is maximum, it's easy to keep eating them even when their hedonic impact is nearly zero (their incentive salience is still enough to keep us eating) -- and since they produce almost zero satiation or satiety, there's nothing to stop us from eating them except the empty box.

JS

February 9, 2013
3:03 am
eddie watts
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that wheat thins explanation is great Stanton.
not that i know what they are, i assume they are an american processed food, possibly cereal?

on primalmeded i found a link to mr palatable's blog and read his response to your speech. i seem to recall (read it a year ago mind) that he suggested your speech seemed confused and jumped around a lot, to the point you did not seem to understand the point you were trying to make yourself.

having now seen your speech i can call this statement to question, not sure how anyone with any knowledge in the field (even mine mostly obtained from blogs and some papers over the last 7 years) can say that.

seems $$$'s talk rather well though

February 9, 2013
3:27 am
eddie watts
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"Seriously: have you read the reviews lately?"

this is at the end of the post.
i just read them now and they are great, i actually recommend your book to friends whenever they mention needing a new book to read.
i just bill it as a fantasy book as i don't want to ruin it for them.

February 9, 2013
5:31 am
Alex
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With respect to this hunger/palatability/FR stuff, for me, J's presentation is crystal clear and a perfect description of the types of hunger I've experienced. Whereas, Stephan's perspective doesn't speak to me at all; I find it nebulous and incomprehensible. I still enjoy his blog, but I don't think it's as good as it was a few years ago, before he got his PhD.

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