The Science of Addictive Junk Food.
I first learned about the science of addictive junk food from David Katz, MD, (author of The Flavor Point Diet) at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, back in 2010. During his lecture, he talked about the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes and the fact that 80% of U.S. adults were overweight. His theory was that we were being bombarded by too many flavors at once, which was causing us to over eat. These flavors were a combination of savory, salt and sweet and could be found in all of the convenient processed foods we were eating. I took this information to help future nutrition clients, but after that lecture, I really hadn’t heard any thing more on the subject.
Processed Foods a Global Health Epidemic.
Fast forward to 2013 and here comes Michael Moss with his best seller, “Salt, Sugar, Fat” informing us how salty, sugary, and fatty processed foods are a global health epidemic, and an addiction that is becoming harder and harder to kick. In his book, he exposes how the large food company’s like General Mills, Kraft, Nabisco, Proctor & Gamble, Coca Cola and Mars have spent millions & millions of dollars having their staff of scientists and biochemists find the perfect bliss point of a food product, with the greatest amount of crave. What’s the formula? The same addicting combination David Katz spoke of: salt, fat and sugar.
Designing Products We Can’t Stop Eating.
So what exactly happens to processed foods and why can’t we stop eating them? Well first off, you need to know that when a food is processed (to create a longer shelf life), much of the flavor is removed, leaving a very bitter and metallic taste to the food. These large food companies realize that no one would buy food that tastes bad, so they had their scientists and chemists add flavor back in to the item to create a more attractive taste. What the scientists/food companies discovered was that they could actually design the food product to be more enticing, by loading the food with fat and sugar, as these two ingredients along with salt seemed to have the power to excite the brain about eating. So began our dependency on processed foods. Lays potato chips wasn’t kidding when it introduced the best known tagline “betcha can’t eat just one.”
Why We Can’t Stop Overeating At Buffets.
This is where science and biology come in to play. Sensory-specific satiety is a term that is used to describe a phenomenon that occurs in our brain when we eat a variety of flavors. Every time we introduce a new flavor into our mouth, our brain lights up and tells us how good it is, but fails to tell us to stop eating. That’s because the appetite center in the hypothalamus is hard-wired to reward us when we consume different foods with a variety of flavors. This “reward” mechanism is why people tend to over eat at buffets. Needless to say, you never find anyone over eating simple, whole foods because these foods from nature, bore the hypothalamus and turn our appetite off after eating a certain amount. That doesn’t mean they don’t taste good though, it’s just the body working properly so we don’t over eat.
So What’s the Solution?
Well for one, be proactive and start reading labels. Know what you’re eating. Many of these food giant companies offer processed products that are labeled “healthy” with no fat, or salt, or contain sugar substitutes, but they are still processed so you need to read the ingredients. If there is something you can’t pronounce in the list, don’t eat it. Eat real whole foods instead of food products. You could start by adding in fresh veggies, whole grains, beans, fruit, nuts and fish into your diet. As you start to filter out the processed foods, your jacked up taste buds will shift. It might take some time and diligence adjusting, but it’s your health were talking about and you are worth it! For more ways to bring balance to your health contact Lisa Breitenwischer at firstname.lastname@example.org.