Sugar, Salt & Fat: The Science Of Addictive Food
Well if you ever found yourself saying I just could not help myself when ate too much of junk food, you just might be right because lot of people are trying to make sure you keep on eating.
Food manufacturing is a highly competitive and secretive industry with sole objective to manufacture food that is simply irresistible and that too increase their share in your stomach as to result in huge profit for them.
These companies rely on deep science and pure science to understand how attractive is food and how they can make their food attractive to you. There is a science behind that bite and crunch and how it taste.
The food industry is even researching the connection between taste receptor (A taste receptor is a type of receptor which facilitates the sensation of taste. When food or other substances enter the mouth, molecules interact with saliva and are bound to taste receptors in the oral cavity and other locations) on your tongue and correspondent chemical reaction in your brain. The result carefully engineered by combination of salt, sugar, fat and chemical deliberately designed, so you can eat just more.
The science behind processed food will surprise all of you, the scientists working in the large food companies toil to create addictive foods. It will amaze you to know how much science, math and regression analysis and energy that is used by large food companies to find the very perfect amount of salt, sugar and fat in their products that will send you over moon.
Salt, sugar and fat which “override your dietary self-control” with foods “so perfectly engineered to compel over consumption”.
The scientific paper and food industry patterns reveal the extant of science behind food engineering.
The chemistry, physics, biology all being used in making profitable foods. There is a process of enhancing food flavor like cheese, mayo, butter, chicken etc without these things being used, where starting materials are proteins and fats, which means the amount of expensive ingredients and food items used in their products can be reduce substantially.
If they could replicate the chemical reactions that happen in your tongue or an aroma, they can simulate the taste without it being all real.
You see trends like obesity and health issues increasing mainly driven by junk food. Obesity is correlated with coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and hypertension (high blood pressure), a risk factor for myocardial infarction (heart attack) and heart failure (with an increased workload for the heart). Heart disease are big cause of mortality around the world.
The food industry is extremely secluded, cut-throat and proprietary. The food processing industry rest on three pillars: sugar, salt and fat. These are holy trinity of processed foods and to hit the perfect amount of these ingredients means a magical combination which you can not resist.
They call it “bliss point” for Sugar, the “Mouth feel” for fat and the “flavor burst” for salt.
Using the industry’s jargon, which starts with the salt that triggers the “flavor burst” which hits your brain’s pleasure center and tell you to keep-on-eating.
This is joined by the “mouthfeel” of the fat from the oil, which is transmitted from the roof of your mouth to your brain.
Lastly, is the “bliss point” provided by the right amount of sugar which you can not resist and want more. Yes, this evil combination make processed foods more addicting and irresistible.
The food industry has created a craving for salt. Increased salt intake over time correlates with hypertension, stroke, myocardial infarction and kidney damage.
In Finland, government-promoted per capita salt consumption reduction by one-third correlated with “an 80 percent decline in the number of deaths from strokes and heart disease”.
Table salt contains 40% sodium; 10,000 mg of salt contains 4000 mg of sodium. The USA government’s suggested limit is 2300 mg of sodium a day (1500 mg for those particularly vulnerable). (One teaspoon of salt has about 6000 mg of salt, i.e., 2300 mg of sodium. The American Heart Association advises all adults to consume <1500 mg of sodium a day.
Almost all processed food has added salt.
Salt has “addictive qualities”.
Increased saturated fat intake correlates with obesity and type 2 diabetes and with “cholesterol, clogged arteries, heart attacks, and strokes”.
Michael Moss, a famous investigative journalist stresses that “fat is an energy colossus. It packs 9 calories into each gram, more than twice the caloric load of either sugar or protein”.
For fat, instead of a “bliss point,” there is a quite potent “mouthfeel” (dryness, gumminess, and moisture release); in terms of its allure, fat can be added to food without limit. Cheese is the biggest single source of saturated fat, which is converted by the liver into cholesterol. Besides cheese, sources of saturated fat include pizza, red meat, chocolate cake, cookies, frozen dinners, candy, potato chips, corn chips, butter, and mayonnaise. The US Department of Agriculture’s recommended daily limit for saturated fat is 15.6 g.
With sugar and fat intake, brain pleasure centers light up bright yellow in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, just as with cocaine. Increasing the amount of sugar intake leads to a “bliss point” (a range) of maximum taste satisfaction, disposing the consumer to crave sugar in a virtual addiction.
This caused the National Institutes of Health’s Nora D. Volkow, MD, to urge some people to “just stay away” from processed sugar. A 20-ounce soda or carbonated drinks has 15 teaspoons of sugar. (One teaspoon contains 4.2 g of sugar) The American Heart Association suggests a limit (beyond needs) of five teaspoons per day for women and nine for men. Nearly all processed food has added sugar, including high-fructose corn syrup. Excess sugar intake is stored as fat in body.
Salt, sugar and fat is a combination nature never intended and increasingly scientist do agree that there is evidence that these highly palatable foods can be addictive. It causes food addiction.
Food addiction is quite simply, being addicted to junk food in the same way as drug addicts are addicted to drugs. It is a very serious problem.
And while the industry hate the word addiction than any other word, it is a fact, researchers show that when they hit very perfect amount of those ingredients, they send you to seventh heaven.
Their products will fly off the shelves. You will eat more and they will make more profit on it.
They use neuroscience (Neuroscience is a multidisciplinary science that is concerned with the study of the structure and function of the nervous system) to look preference for various types of food.
With neuroscience, Multinational make headlines that ice cream trickles the brain, a spoon full of ice cream actives happy zone of brain in clinical trials. This is how food affects your brain.
Companies come out with food that are called “Moreish” another word for “making you want more”. It is also called ” Hedonic Hyperphagia”.
Scientists say your inability to stop eating junk food is called ‘hedonic hyperphagia’.
What they want from you is that in end of each product, you eat more and they often achieve it by a very intense taste right in front of your mouth when you eat and then it dies of very quickly and by the time you finish mouth full, you are looking to find that taste which you lost again through consuming more of processed food.
The food scientists know about the reason that you stop eating food, they call it “Sensory Specific Satiety” and that’s an expression, saying when foods have one over writing flavor, if it is attractive, it will be really attractive initially but you get tired of it really fast. So these companies have perfected the process of subverting “Sensory-Specific Satiety”.
These foods contain ingredients that stimulate taste buds just enough to be alluring, but do not contain a distinctive or overriding flavor that tells brain to stop eating.
There is another reason behind why you can not stop eating and it is called “Vanishing Caloric Density”. It applies on products like “chips” when it melt in your mouth what happens than that your brain get fool into thinking calories have vanished and you are much more apt to keep eating before brain sent you signal that you had enough.
There is no caloric density, which means the brain thinks there are no calories in the food, you are consuming.
You could keep eating forever!
Because these products needs to hit on shelves for many months, many of ingredients have nothing to do with taste and nutrients but as preservatives (any substance that is added to food to keep it fresh longer having a longer shelve life and prevent it from decaying) and chemicals to control appearance and texture and series of ingredients known as flavor enhancer to trip the brain into tasting something that is not there.
There is tremendous amount of money spent for creating tastes and smells that feel real but in reality they are artificial. Because without flavor enhancement no one would eat processed food. It will taste horrible and you want to spit it out.
But still you will be back for more, the food industry depends on it.
These companies although fully aware of their products are harmful for human health but even then and without any least concern about its effects or harms to humanity, it still continues to grow up as it is a multi-million dollar business to compromise on, hence it is for society to react to and think about it.