Cold Turkey, Obesity and Sterilization

John Lennon Cold turkey“Temperature’s rising   Fever is high Can’t see no future Can’t see no sky  My feet are so heavy So is my head I wish I was a baby  I wish I was dead Cold turkey has got me on the run My body is aching   Goose-pimple bone Can’t see no body Leave me alone  My eyes are wide open Can’t get to sleep One thing I’m sure of I’m in at the deep freeze  Cold turkey has got me on the run Cold turkey has got me on the run Thirty-six hours  Rolling in pain Praying to someone Free me again  Oh I’ll be a good boy Please make me well I promise you anything   Get me out of this hell Cold turkey has got me on the run Oh, oh, oh, oh.” Lyrics by John Lennon.

“Cold Turkey” describes the actions of a person who gives up a habit or addiction all at once — that is, rather than gradually easing the process through reduction or by using replacement medication.

A substance that is becoming increasingly addictive is food. We know this because obesity has become a growing concern among both genders and all age groups in the U.S.  In 1962, 13 percent of the American population was classified as obese. By 1994, this number had increased to 23 percent. According to 2007 estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 60 percent of U.S. adult women are overweight with just over one-third of overweight adult women considered obese.(2)

People are defined as overweight (pre-obese) when their body mass index (BMI) is between 25 kg/m2 and 30 kg/m2, and obese when it is greater than 30 kg/m2. BMI is defined as the individual’s body weight divided by the square of his or her height.

Obesity and Health

There are links between obesity and more then 30 medical conditions including heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. Some 90,000 U.S. cancer deaths a year are linked to obesity. New evidence suggests the size of a cancerous prostate tumor is directly proportional to the weight of the patient and the bigger the tumor the more aggressive the cancer.

As the patients’ body mass index increased, the tumor volume increased synchronously,” said Dr Nilesh Patil, who led the six-year study at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.(3)

“Based on our results, we believe having a larger percentage of tumor volume may be contributing to the aggressive nature of the disease in men with a higher BMI,” he said.

New evidence also suggests a link between higher BMI and asthma. Writing in the medical journal Allergy, Dr Jun Ma of the Palo Alto Medical Research Institute in California found that the risk of developing asthma more than tripled for the most obese individuals compared with people whose weight was considered to be normal.(4)

Although the reasons for the relationship are still largely unknown, some believe a resistance to insulin could also be a key factor.  The study revealed that 37 percent of the obese group were either diabetic or insulin resistant.

This could be a worrying link when, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, 1 in 3 U.S children will become diabetic unless people start exercising more and eating less. Worldwide, diet-related afflictions such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes account for almost 60 percent of deaths annually.(5)

Obesity in Pregnancy

Another concern for children is that one-fifth of pregnant women in the U.S. is obese.

Whatever a mother eats, drinks or consumes while pregnant goes directly through the bloodstream into the placenta.

The placenta is an organ that connects the developing fetus to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake, waste elimination and gas exchange via the mother’s blood supply. If you are pregnant and take a drink — a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail — your unborn child takes the same drink.

Babies born to obese mothers are at increased risk of suffering dangerous neural tube defects during development. Neural tube defects (NTDs) are one of the most common birth defects, occurring in approximately one in 1,000 live births in the U.S.

Two examples of NTDs are anencephaly and spina bifida.

  • Anencephaly (without brain) is a neural tube defect that occurs when the head end of the neural tube fails to close, usually during the 23rd and 26th days of pregnancy, resulting in an absence of a major portion of the brain and skull. Infants born with this condition are usually blind, deaf and unconscious. The lack of a functioning cerebrum will ensure that the infant will never gain consciousness. Infants are either stillborn or usually die within a few hours or days after birth.
  • Spina bifida is a developmental birth defect caused by the incomplete closure of the embryonic neural tube. Some vertebrae overlying the spinal cord are not fully formed and remain unfused and open. This results in walking problems, loss of sensation, deformities of the hips, knees or feet and loss of muscle tone. Depending on location, intense pain may occur originating in the lower back, and continuing down the leg to the back of the knee.

A paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association which pooled and analyzed dozens of earlier studies, found that the risk of spina bifida was 2.2 times higher for babies of obese mothers compared to infants of normal weight women, while the risk of other neural tube defects was 1.8 times higher. (6)

“Our findings confirm what studies have been finding with regard to neural tube defects, particularly spina bifida, and some heart anomalies,” Judith Rankin, senior author of the study and a researcher at the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, said in an e-mail message.

“However, we were surprised at the range of birth defects that were found to have an increased risk in mothers who were obese.”

Studies also show that babies who are born to obese mothers are more likely to suffer from obesity by the time they reach the age of four. In one recent study, 29 percent of children born to obese mothers were also obese by the age of four, compared with only 9 percent of babies born to mothers of normal weight.(7)

There is evidence the child’s body-weight-regulating mechanisms might be permanently altered by maternal signals associated with the mother’s own overweight. According to ongoing studies by Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-funded investigator Kartik Shankar and colleagues, such maternal programming of the unborn child could increase the risk that the child would become an overweight or obese adult and would have a higher risk of obesity-related afflictions.

Shankar looked at weight gains among rat pups whose dads were lean and whose mothers, called “dams,” were either lean or overweight (from overfeeding) before conception and throughout pregnancy.

All offspring were of normal weight at birth and at weaning. However, when the weaned offspring were given free access to an unlimited amount of high-fat rations, the offspring of overweight dams showed remarkable sensitivity to the high-fat rations. They gained significantly more weight, and more of that weight as fat mass, than did the offspring of lean dams.(8)

The study strongly suggests that exposure to the mother’s obesity while in the womb results in programming of the offspring’s metabolism and body-weight-control mechanisms. The dams’ obesity alone was sufficient to significantly increase the pups’ susceptibility to obesity.

obese womanFood Addiction

Obesity has long been blamed on weak willpower, overeating, genetics and lack of exercise. Now scientists are seeing signs that suggest there may be an additional contributor: food addiction.

Food addiction is a contemporary term used to describe a pathological disorder; the compulsive, excessive craving for, and consumption of, food. When any substance is taken into the body regardless of its potential for harm or in excess of need, that substance is said to be abused. Individuals who abuse substances in such a way are addicts; these persons become physiologically and mentally dependent upon certain substances, in this case food. (9)

Psychiatrist Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse says for some compulsive eaters, the drive to eat is so intense that it overshadows the motivation to engage in other rewarding activities, and it becomes difficult to exercise self-control. This is similar to the compulsion that an addict feels to take drugs, she says.

“When this occurs, the compulsive eating behavior can interfere with their well-being and their health.”

Cocaine

Babies born to mothers who use cocaine throughout their pregnancy may also have a smaller head and have their growth hindered. Babies who are exposed to cocaine later in pregnancy may be born dependent and suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, sleeplessness, muscle spasms, and feeding difficulties. Some experts believe that learning difficulties may result as the child gets older. Defects of the genitals, kidneys, and brain are also possible.

Heroin

Babies can also be born addicted to heroin and can suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, convulsions, diarrhea, fever, sleep abnormalities, and joint stiffness. Mothers who inject narcotics are more susceptible to HIV, which can be passed to their unborn children.

Marijuana

Studies of marijuana in pregnancy are inconclusive because many women who smoke marijuana also use tobacco and alcohol. Marijuana, like cigarette smoke, contains toxins that keep the baby from getting the proper supply of oxygen that he or she needs to grow.

What about food?

All commercial foods in the U.S. now have pesticides and herbicides in them.  Aldehydes are used in some foods as flavoring and, when coupled with formaldehyde used as preservatives in others, can trigger reactions of the gynecological system. Many heavy metals like lead, cadmium and mercury may be found in foods.

If these are ingested in large quantities or repetitively, problems can arise.

Childhood mental problems, lack of brain development, still births and childbirth defects, including spina bifida, were linked to lead fallout from the Port Kembla, Australia copper smelter, steelworks and industrial complex.(10)

A meta-analysis by Schwartz and Reis (2000) suggests that individuals with increased exposure to cadmium have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. In 1993, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified cadmium and cadmium compounds as known human carcinogens.

Schwartz and Reis conclude persons with diets high in cadmium-containing foods, such as seafood, root vegetables, and breads and pastries, should be at increased risk from carcinogenic effect.

Junk Foods

Coal tar is highly carcinogenic.  All artificial colors, flavors, and odors are made from coal tar. They are found in all soft drinks, cosmetics, and many medicines. Foods which have bright colors, strong flavors, or odors often have coal tar in them. The more natural and unprocessed the food is, the less likely it is to have additives. Junk foods are the worst.(11)

junk food Junk foods are typically ready to eat convenience foods containing high levels of saturated fats, salt, or sugar; and little or no fruit, vegetables, or dietary fiber. Junk food includes foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs, chocolate, ice cream, cake, French fries and pizza.

A study by Paul Johnson and Paul Kenny at The Scripps Research Institute suggested that junk food alters brain activity in a manner similar to addictive drugs like cocaine or heroin. (12)

How do we put a stop to substance addiction during pregnancy and its consequences on the health of babies and children?

Currently there is only one state, South Carolina, that holds prenatal substance abuse as a criminal act of child abuse and neglect. Other states have laws that address prenatal substance abuse.

Some states have policies that enforce admission to an inpatient treatment program for pregnant women who use drugs. These states include Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Under current promotion are the ideals of Project Prevention which offers cash incentives to women that are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol to use long-term or permanent birth control. Project Prevention supports drug treatment and believes all addicts should have the opportunity to seek and find it. They say:

Since we all know there is a lack of drug treatment available to addicts at times I think we can all agree that being on birth control unless/until they have the opportunity to get clean is a positive step for all addicts/alcoholics.

Project Prevention states its objective is “to reduce the burden of this social problem on taxpayers”.

Since it was founded in 1994, the charity has paid 3,388 people in the U.S. to be sterilized or to take long-term contraception measures. Of these, 1,059 have chosen Depo-Provera, a long-term injectable contraceptive; 1,260 chose tubal ligation – sterilization – while the remainder have opted for coils or implants. Just under 50 men have had vasectomies. In the US, addicts are offered up to $300 (£200) for sterilization.

The answer for obesity, food addiction and the dangers to the unborn child?

Make the companies who are responsible for putting toxins in our food accountable, for starters…and for the main course?

Perhaps obese expectant mothers, who are consuming excessive amounts of these toxins, should try some ‘Cold Turkey’…

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Buy the Book!

Addiction – A Chronic Brain Disease, Not Just Bad Behavior or Bad Choices

24 comments for “Cold Turkey, Obesity and Sterilization

  1. June 4, 2010 at 4:23 am

    Totally agree with you– this is a wonderful explanation and warning. Not surprised to know that junk food alters the brain like a drug– wonder too about the crazy increase in autism over the last two decades — might it not be traced to environmental pollution, including heavy metals etc. in our food? Lots of food for thought here. Good stuff!!

  2. June 4, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    I just can not fathom what possesses someone that is addicted to a substance that they know will cause long term damage to a baby to have a baby. If you want to hurt your own body, that is your business, but when an innocent baby is involved…..it should be criminal. While I hate the idea of giving people money to buy more drugs and alcohol with, it is much better than seeing these helpless fetuses suffer from the effects of drugs and alcohol

  3. Alex
    June 8, 2010 at 2:38 am

    I’ve spoken to many people -including alcoholics and addicts – who have zero tolerance for the plight of those addicted to food. It’s a modern manifestation of an age old ‘habit’: blame those who suffer for their plight and stigmatise them too. It’s the mindset of the Victorian middle and upper-classes regarding the poor. Sometimes i think we let our need for a scapegoat overshadow sense.

    Addiction to food, sex, shopping etc….can be as harmful as a substance addiction. The same cortical structures are activated in all addiction, leading to entrenched pathways and distorted cognition. And money must be begged, borrowed or stolen to fund all behaviours.

    I love a little junk food every now and again. However, I know some sweets make me crazy and if i eat pringles I’m wired and unable to sleep – which I find a tad unnerving!

    Thanks for the post!

  4. February 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    I honestly do not even know where to begin. I myself have been blessed (or cursed) with the opposite problem, I have been teased for being too thin, told “Why don’t you eat something?” – I do, I just do not gain weight.
    I one time confronted an overweight co-worker who was always telling me to eat more, as she sad eating her lunch one day (2 pieces of pie) I charged back to the lunch room and asked her “How would you feel if I told you to Eat Less?”. She did not get the point, for some reason our society says it is okay to make fun of thin people but if you do the reverse you are a villain.
    Heath is a serious matter, deadly serious, there is no excuse for most of these people for being this much overweight, and to raise kids to be equally unhealthy is a crime. I have heard too that many women who are obese suffered sexual abuse in the past and made a real effort to become obese.

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