Morning “Food Addiction” Freakouts, Brought to You by Starbucks

130510_CupCoffeeWhen the New York City soda ban was announced, among its most fervent partisans was MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski. She notably threw a fit when Judge Milton Tingling struck it down. This week, we found out why.

Chasing this year’s well of food-related publishing cash, namely screaming from some New York park bench that food is being made “addictive,” she’s written a book titled Obsessed blaming the food industry for life’s problems. Echoing a political attack ad, she insinuates that food companies are waging war on women by making foods that are, um, easy to prepare, convenient to buy, and pleasing to the taste buds. (Or perhaps companies are simply giving people what they want.) Despite research from Cambridge University finding that “criteria for substance dependence translate poorly to food-related behaviours,” Mika claims that this means all sorts of regulations and lawsuits are needed to punish food makers.

In an interview, Mika points to the fact that she ate Nutella while sleep-walking. Far from making Nutella addictive, this highlights the side effect of a drug she was taking. As it turns out, sleepwalking, sleep-eating, and, scarily, even sleep-driving are reported side effects of the prescription sleep aid Ambien that Brzezinski said she was taking. Oh, and cases of Ambien dependence (i.e. addiction) are frequently reported in the medical literature.

So the food industry is innocent of at least one of Mika’s anecdotal charges. But there’s even more cash behind Mika’s sob stories. When the New York soda ban was announced, some noticed that Mika praised the ban on one hand and appeared to guzzle large quantities of Starbucks coffee (all glory to the latte loophole and Rich People’s Big Gulps) with the other. She did this because Starbucks is the main sponsor of Mika’s show.

No Starbucks cash would mean no show, and no show means Mika would have no soapbox from which to sell books. So obviously some sugary beverage choices are more equal than others, even if they have roughly equal calories. (A Starbucks 20-oz soy caramel macchiato has 300 calories, while a 20-oz regular cola has around 250.) Last time we checked, women drink lattes too.

Of course, in the world of diet police trying to restrict your food choices, taking sugar money in one hand while cashing in on bashing sugar is simply par for the hypocritical course. Whether it’s New York Times commentator Mark Bittman, who wants us all to be vegans before dinner while he finishes his two-egg breakfast; Kelly Brownell, who demands fat taxes while he is himself extremely rotund; or the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which sues food companies for doing something similar to what it also does, many food cops are known hypocrites. That Mika is among them isn’t surprising at all.

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