Archive for April, 2012

Satiety Signals

Posted: April 26, 2012 in Consumerism, Culture, Health, Philosophy
Tags: ,

This post is rewritten and expanded from a blog comment I made here.

In human biology, the part of the brain that controls appetite is called the hypothalamus, and it responds to four different hormones: insulin, leptin, CCK, and ghrelin. The first three signal when one has had enough to eat and the last inhibits the function of the first three. With normal foodstuffs, the satiety signal appears readily enough. However, food manufacturers through the application of science can now outwit our hormones so that, for instance, a 32-oz Big Gulp no longer seems like a lot of liquid to drink because the normal “I’m full” signal never reaches the brain even though the liquid reaches the bladder. Fructose and high-fructose corn syrup (more commonly known as HFCS, which has roughly equal parts fructose and glucose), major ingredients in soda, in particular fail to stimulate production of these hormones and are accordingly regarded as toxins or poisons by many dieticians. It might sound conspiratorial to suggest that food makers have purposely substituted HFCS for other sweeteners precisely to forestall the feeling of fullness, but then, no one believed the conspiracy to load cigarettes with addictive nicotine for a long while, either.


I wanted to follow up my previous post for a variety of reasons, not least of which is to admit yet again that I’m guilty of doing the very thing I complained about with others: breaking ideas into arbitrary categories so as to construct arguments and metaphors around the distinctions. Obviously, for words to have useful meanings, they can’t be interpreted too openly, like notorious exercises in deconstructivist literary theory, one of the benchmarks of postmodernism that has propagated well beyond the aeries of the academy. Yet many of us are still only too easily carried away with our own verbal cleverness.

Some time ago, I commented on a blog post at Ribbon Farm called Warrens, Plazas, and the Edge of Legibility. The author (Venkat) adopted a metaphor using the warren/plaza distinction as applied to the legibility of social networking environments, but in the course of unpacking his metaphor, he reversed the two terms’ utility. Venkat is clearly a very clever fellow, but I stopped reading and commenting at his blog out of frustration. His latest blog post is Lawyer Mind, Judge Mind, another exploration of categorical distinctions where he ends by saying that the two types overlap and/or swap position despite their ostensible separations. I weary of these blog posts.