Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How the Foodmakers Captured Our Brains

I've been reading Mark Bittman's book, "Food Matters", for the last few days. I bought it for my husband, so technically it's his and I shouldn't be highlighting passages and putting exclamation marks in the margins--however, that's really what I want to do. I've got to start sticking post-its beside all the important passages, though I fear that the book will be one giant post-it when I'm done.

I'm not ready to write my review yet, but I promise it's coming soon.

In the meantime, here's an article from the New York Times that's a must-read. I know I've mentioned the topic before, but some things are just worth repeating. Here's a rather long excerpt from the NYT article:

In “The End of Overeating,” Dr. Kessler finds some similarities in the food industry, which has combined and created foods in a way that taps into our brain circuitry and stimulates our desire for more.

When it comes to stimulating our brains, Dr. Kessler noted, individual ingredients aren’t particularly potent. But by combining fats, sugar and salt in innumerable ways, food makers have essentially tapped into the brain’s reward system, creating a feedback loop that stimulates our desire to eat and leaves us wanting more and more even when we’re full.

Dr. Kessler isn’t convinced that food makers fully understand the neuroscience of the forces they have unleashed, but food companies certainly understand human behavior, taste preferences and desire. In fact, he offers descriptions of how restaurants and food makers manipulate ingredients to reach the aptly named “bliss point.” Foods that contain too little or too much sugar, fat or salt are either bland or overwhelming. But food scientists work hard to reach the precise point at which we derive the greatest pleasure from fat, sugar and salt.

The result is that chain restaurants like Chili’s cook up “hyper-palatable food that requires little chewing and goes down easily,” he notes. And Dr. Kessler reports that the Snickers bar, for instance, is “extraordinarily well engineered.” As we chew it, the sugar dissolves, the fat melts and the caramel traps the peanuts so the entire combination of flavors is blissfully experienced in the mouth at the same time.

More and more, I'm coming to view the "fat epidemic", or whatever you want to call it, as a societal issue. Yes, it does come to down to what you choose to eat, when you choose to eat it, how much of it you choose to eat. But the frontier mentality--I can do it on my own and I don't need (or deserve) any help--keeps us in a world that condones such things as advertising that encourages us to stuff ourselves on fake food. Has anyone noticed the Dairy Queen ad where the kids run a clip about some incredible, sweet and cold concoction that DQ is now featuring just as their mom (who's more than moderately overweight) walks in the room? Suddenly Mom is suggesting a trip to DQ. Then the boys talk about the cheeseburger clip they've prepared for when dad's around. It disgusts me. We, as a society, have to put our foot down and stop falling for the lies and disinformation.

As you know, I believe in a bit of sugar, now and then, a good French baguette, a beautiful, runny Brie cheese. I believe in real, beautiful food and pretty much everything (except cocaine LOL) in moderation. But being bombarded with crap masquerading as food--to that I say NO!

No comments:

Post a Comment