In 1999, food company big wigs gathered in Minneapolis to hear a presentation about an alarming increase of obesity in the United States and how to best address it.
The meeting was held at the Pillsbury headquarters. One of the executives had become concerned after viewing pictures of obese children who were struggling with diabetes and had early signs of heart disease and hypertension.
This executive met with food science experts who warned that people were unable to withstand some of the concoctions being brewed by food companies. He felt it was time to sound the alarm to CEOs that their companies were making products that were contrary to the public well-being.
The Minneapolis presentation was given, complete with 114 slides. The audience was told that half of American adults were overweight and that one-quarter were obese. They were also told that the number of obese children exceeded 12 million. Surely something must be done.
The speaker went silent, the projector cooled down, and the CEOs who were in attendance collectively decided that surely nothing must be done. And that is exactly what happened.
If You Build It, They Will Eat It
Food companies are very much aware that the high sugar, high fat, and high salt foods they sell are not good for the consumer. Much of the public is also aware but, they still buy these foods and grow fat and diabetic and hypertensive and on and on. Why is that?
The unfortunate answer is that the big food industry intentionally produces convenient and inexpensive products that are meant to be addictive. One of the first blocks in the construction of food you just gotta have more of is sugar. Once the stuff is in us it causes a dopamine release in the part of the brain associated with reward. This is the same part of the brain that responds to cocaine and heroin. The average American happens to eat 156 pounds of added sugar per year - that's 3 pounds of added sugar a week - and keeps the reward center of the brain quite happy.
If you add a smart guy into the mix who is able to fine tune this, then you will have a product that is going to fly off the shelves. While food companies were adding sugar, salt, and fat to what we eat our smart guy was figuring out the perfect balance. He found that as the sensory intensity to an additive increases people say that they like the product more. But it is at the middle level of intensity that they say they like the product best. This level is known as the bliss point. Ka ching.
The military was looking for a way to get soldiers to eat more rations while in the field so they could get a proper number of calories. The problem was that the soldiers found rations dull and uninspiring and would discard them without finishing. Our smart guy was called to action to try and solve the problem and found that flavorful foods that were at first enjoyed became tiresome after a short time. On the other hand, certain mundane foods were being packed away without feeling full. Hello sensory-specific satiety.
Sensory-specific satiety is the term used to define the brain’s reaction to overwhelming flavors. The response to such flavors is a message sent to stop eating. Food companies figured a way to get their products to entice the brain without overwhelming it with any single flavor. This would prevent the sending of that pesky message to stop eating. For the food industry, it was like winning the lottery.
Part 9 of the Great Weight Gain Addiction Game explores the concept of sugar as a solution for sales problems.
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New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&
Psychology Today - http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201302/why-our-brains-love-sugar-and-why-our-bodies-don’t
Published On: November 30, 2013