The average American eats 33 pounds of cheese, along with 70 pounds of sugar, per year. That is a staggering amount of salt and fat that we consume on an annual basis. It is driving our obesity epidemic, and is being pushed on us, as consumers, from all sides.
Michael Moss found that the food industry is very strategic and plans everything out from the exact taste of the foods, to the responses it causes in our bodies and brains, to the marketing, commercials and to even where the products are placed in the grocery stores.
Research shows that consumers are more likely to make impulse purchases when close to, or in the check out line. That is why there are so many sweet, sugary snacks and drinks placed there. We are more likely to purchase them there than if they were placed differently in the store.
Moss found that the food industry employs scientists to chemically formulate processed foods so that they hit the right spot, or the bliss point with sugar. This means that the foods aren’t too sweet, or too bitter. Scientists have found that if they put too little sugar into a food, it won’t be sweet enough and people won’t like it. If they put too much sugar into a food, then it will be too sweet and people won’t like it.
This bliss point for sugar takes many months of research and market testing. The food industry tests markets and age groups to make sure that they have the taste just right. When they hit the bliss point with a certain food, that food will be much harder to resist, and much harder to eat just one of. The right bliss point can actually be addictive.
Sugar can be addictive. Sugar can be more addictive than narcotics, at least according to the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Washington. She said that it is more difficult getting unhooked from foods than it is to get unhooked from drugs. This is because you need food to survive. You can’t quit food cold turkey, like you can a drug.
Sugar uses the same neurological pathway as narcotics to hit the pleasure center of the brain. When eating sugary foods, this center will send out irresistible signals telling you to eat more. This is why you can’t eat just one oreo or just one potato chip. Food industry insiders don’t like the term “addictive”. They instead use terms like “crave-abilty” or “allure”.
Sugar levels aren’t the only ingredient that the food industry manipulates. It also manipulates fat levels as well. Fat gives foods their mouth feel. It is responsible for that feeling you get when you bite into a hamburger and taste it’s juices. Or when you bite into a potato chip and it crunches. Or taste the crispy skin of fried chicken. The difference with fat is that there is no bliss point to it. The more fat in a food, the better it tastes. Fat is also more calorie dense than sugar is.
Salt is the other main ingredient that the food industry manipulates to alter the taste, the texture, and our neurological and physiological responses to the foods. Salt covers up off tastes that are inevitable in processed foods. Salt helps to preserve food so that it can sit on a shelf for months without going bad.
The USDA is not reliable for recommendations for how much to eat and what to eat. The USDA’s (united states department of agriculture) first responsibility is to the agricultural business. Not to the consumer. In 2010 the USDA came out with it’s 5 year dietary guidelines. In this it recommended that people eat more cheese and more red meat. Even though the saturated fats in red meats and cheeses are part of what is driving everyone to gain weight and become obese.
Most reliable dietary guidelines recommend eating red meat no more than once a week. Eat no more than 2 servings of cheese a day. But make sure that you are not getting other saturated fats from other sources if you are eating cheese every day.
The most telling point of the book to me is that of all of the food scientists and industry insiders that Michael Moss talked to, not one of them ate the processed foods that they invented, created, had a hand in developing, or market. None of them eat processed foods. They know what’s in those foods, and they know the long term health effects from eating them. If they created processed foods and won’t eat them, doesn’t that tell us something about processed foods?
In order to feel better, reduce pain, get into shape, and increase activity levels, exercise is essential. Eating right is just as important. It is not necessary to starve yourself and eat bland food to loose weight and get into shape. Eat smarter, don’t starve yourself. It is the Pain Free Way.
Here are a few other articles that I wrote about sugar and it’s effects on our bodies: