I'm going with cocaine. I think that we are surrounded by it, in a figurative sense.
Sounds dumb, but bear with me. Get ready for a way-too-long answer. Moreso than food reward, I'm looking at our attitude on reward in general. Food reward is an unconventional but excellent answer as to what it is about our diets that is most negatively affecting our health. Aravind and I were talking at AHS about dose-dependent toxins, and wondered if the big 3 (gluten, n-6, sugar) are mostly a big deal because people eat so much now. If packaged foods have more of these three, and people eat way more packaged food and food in general, then oila!
But why do people eat so much packaged food? Lots of reasons, obviously. Convenience, price, palatability, blah blah. But one factor lurking in the background is that there just isn't time for the average Joe to think about food or prepare it themselves. Time is spent doin things that we know temporarily will make us happy-- checking Gmail 10-100 times a day, checking paleohacks 10-100 times a day, facebook, twitter, TV-on-DVD, etc etc.
What if everything had a "Nutrition Label" that showed how it affected your brain? So your smartphone could have a label that says "1 daily dose = 10 mg cocaine". Now I know virtually nothing about neurotransmitters, but I'd bet that the daily dopamine/seratonin/norepinephrine rush from internet/tv/smartphone is mother@#$% huge!
Whenever someone gets on a soapbox and talks about how smartphones might be bad, or checking email a billion times a day might be bad, it can sound smart, but nobody cares. We should care! The NIH funds primarly drug and medical device trials because that's where the research agenda is at. Despite this, we paleos have managed to snoop around and find a good approximation of a healthy diet. The NIH is just never going to be that interested in making us live a more mindful life, and stop deepening these grooves in our brain dedicated to instant reward.
I know that if I see something new and interesting on paleohacks, I'll google the shit out of it in an instant. Screw that, if I see something new and interesting in an episode of Golden Girls, I'll google the shit out of that too. The only reason I don't feel like a helpless drug (technology) addict on a daily basis is that everybody I know is doing it. Currently, 30% of my friends check their smartphones in the middle of conversations. I can only imagine what the percentage will be in 10 years. Personally, I hope to reverse direction a bit and wean myself of technology. That will afford much more time for cooking, chillin', pleasure reading, and doing
things that I don't feel I have to interrupt to get an email buzz.
In summary, I'm apprehensive that I am no match for technology. There are so many interesting paleo blogs, and that is just one subject matter. When I see someone like Kurt Harris withdraw for a while, it makes smile a little. But another part of me feels like a vampire who craves more KGH posts. Although the connection is roundabout, I do feel like taming this instant-satisfaction monster must be tied to not craving rewarding foods, as well as creating time to build up activities that don't involve information fixes. In fact, I want to get a before-and-after fMRI to track just how hard this hamster is sucking at the sugar (information) straw, and how much I can improve.