The Science of Addictive Junkfood

I read a really interesting article in the New York Times Magazine (on-line) this morning about why processed food is so addictive. It’s a lengthy article but well worth the read. If you’ve got the time, please read it.

If you don’t have time to read it, here are a few teasers:

  1. the food industry has been likened to the tobacco industry
  2. Yoplait yogurt – has twice as much sugar per serving as General Mills’ marshmallow cereal Lucky Charms (this would be a good reason to make your own yogurt or buy plain and add syrup, jam or honey)
  3. What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive.”
  4. There is a guy who studied math and has a Ph.D in experimental psychology that “optimizes” food.
  5. Food engineers alter everything from taste to color to texture to who knows what and consumers are paid to “test” the products.
  6. Computer models and statistical programs are set up to analyze data provided by the consumer testers to find out what combination of ingredients/colors/textures etc. people are most likely to buy
  7. the secret to a successful junk food is to create recipes (formulas!) that “pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating“.
  8. the history of lunchables is interesting (and disturbing) and I love the line “when in doubt, add sugar” (you’ve really got to read the full article!).
  9. processed foods require weeks or months of transport and storage before they arrive at the store. Gross!
  10. Frito-lay has invested millions to perfect “crunch”
  11. It’s “more efficient” for soft drink producers to get existing fans to drink more than to bring on new fans.

Good for me, I nibbled on carrots as I read that instead of chocolate-chip cookies.


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3 Responses to The Science of Addictive Junkfood

  1. Rascally says:

    Have you ever looked around in an American shopping mall or restaurant? Everyday regular people are getting around on Rascals. RASCALS. As in SCOOTERS. MOTORIZED TRANSPORTATION DEVICES. Why? Because they’re FAT. They’re HUGELY, ENORMOUSLY, AGGRESSIVELY fat. They’re so fat they can’t even walk. Is it their fault? It’s hard to say. Bet the food psychologists have at least a couple of grades up on the average American, who thinks at an 8th grade level. Gads. It’s so depressing it hardly bears thinking about. WALL-E wasn’t so far off the mark.


  2. Connie Molnar says:

    I don’t remember the name of the author as it has been several years since I read the book “The End of Overeating.” It will shock and amaze you at what has become of the food industry, both grocery store and fast food. Also, about a year or two ago, 60 Minutes did a segment on the science of developing “natural” flavors to add to food–you know, when the container label states “and other natural flavors.” And I hope you were eating regular carrots, not the “baby” kind–those are processed and covered with a preservative; it takes weeks for them to go bad. Why are we allowing this to be done to us?



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