The Badly Behaving Brain is Published!

I am thrilled to announce the publication of an academic review article I wrote with Dr. Andrew Kurt Thaw: “The Badly Behaving Brain: How Ultra-Processed Food Addiction Thwarts Sustained Weight Loss.” It’s a chapter in the forthcoming academic book called Weight Loss: A Multidisciplinary Perspective and the chapter is available online now via Open Access Publishing. 

The article speaks to the science of the relationship between food addiction and weight loss. It’s similar to the science I presented in the book Bright Line Eating—but that was published seven or eight years ago and the field has exploded since then. 

About Open Access publishing: when you click the link, you can access and download a PDF of the article. Most scientific articles require you to have an academic affiliation to access them. I can see them because I’m a professor at the University of Rochester, but they are not available to the general public.

However, Open Access allows anyone to read scientific articles. With this model, we, the authors, pay for access—in this case, since it was a British publication, it cost us 1,400 pounds to get this published. Because we paid that fee, we’ve financed your ability to read the article. 

On the one hand, this new trend in academic publishing means that ANYONE in the world now who has an internet connection can now access cutting-edge scientific information at its source. The downside, though, is that it makes the playing field for publishing even more un-level, impacting early-career scientists and scientists from poorer countries disproportionately.

Two things surprised me in writing this article. 

The first is how much the field of weight loss science has progressed. We accessed a meta-analysis that looked at all the studies that have used the Yale Food Addiction Scale. There were an astounding 6,425 articles that used the Scale! What they found is that an estimated 20 percent of the population has food addiction. 

The other thing that surprised me was a number in that meta-analysis. They looked at it by weight class, and for people living with obesity, they found 28 percent tested out as having food addiction. 

That’s not what I’ve found with the Food Addiction Susceptibility Scale. By my instrument, 33 percent of the people with class one obesity are high on the Food Addiction Susceptibility Scale and 56 percent of those with higher classes of obesity test out high on the Scale. 

What I learned from writing this article, however, is that you can have multiple symptoms of food addiction, but if you don't answer the right way to the questions asking you if you have clinically significant impairment or distress, then it won’t tag you as having food addiction, even if you have the symptoms.

So, someone might say their eating habits aren’t causing them distress, but then you ask them how their work life is, for example, and they tell you they’ve been out on disability. Or they tell you they can’t exercise, or they’re in pain—but they don’t associate this with impairment. So I don’t buy the 28 percent number.

There’s a graph at the end of the article that looks at weight-loss drugs compared to Noom, Weight Watchers, the Zone Diet, and others, and it’s stunning: Bright Line Eating does as good a job as weight-loss drugs at helping people lose weight. Weight loss drugs and Bright Line Eating are the only two that address addiction. Weight loss drugs do that by modulating the dopamine response in the mesolimbic pathway in the brain. BLE does it by healing that part of the brain with the foods you eat, stopping the relentless flow of dopamine that is causing those receptors to downregulate. 

I encourage you to read this article, take it to your doctor, show it to your friends, and pass it around. This article can help advance the field. It’s very satisfying to put it out into the world. I hope you enjoy it. You can access it right here:

You can read The Badly Behaving Brain article here.

The Badly Behaving Brain is Published! | Bright Line Living | The Official Bright Line Eating Podcast