By Dorie Obertello
No one will deny that America, as a country, is overweight. Some states have obesity rates that surpass 1 in every 4. There are countless theories as to why this is the case. Is it socioeconomic? Cultural? Medical?
A study by Don Katz from Brandeis University about taste got me thinking not about why American is fat, but how we could fix it. It does not seem that Katz has looked at the weight loss angle of his research, but I see a very possible link.
A popular remedy to excess weight, other than diet and exercise (which for some is too gradual or ineffective) is surgery. This seems a bit extreme because while it is effective, it is also incredibly dangerous. There must be a better way to return quickly and permanently to normal weight.
Katz is studying the links between tastes and emotions. He has postulated that every taste, without exception, invokes a tangible response, usually in the form of brain activity. However, many tastes also evoke emotions, often mirror images of feelings about the setting and/or experience of past consumption.
He has found that if a taste is associated with a negative experience and negative emotions, the taste itself will become disliked. This is called taste aversion. It holds true for a number of animals, from humans to mice (Katz is currently using mice).
So, what if doctors and scientists could program obese patients to loath unhealthy foods? The idea is not extraordinary. All that would be necessary is a bad experience to accompany the taste. If French fires and fried chicken seem vile due to a particularly nasty past stomachache, there is little risk an overweight individual will want to eat them.
Taking the idea a step further, perhaps children could be taught preemptively to dislike certain fattening or non-nutritious foods in an effort to stem the growing “epidemic,” as some call it. Of course, this preventative measure is not right for everyone. However, for those at risk, a picky palette is better than a lifetime of health trouble.