Obesity is all around us, and surveys reveal that more and more of us are endangering our future health through poor diet and lack of exercise. It is our responsibility to control our appetites and activity. Right? Well, new information suggests that other forces are also at work.
In the February 20 New York Times magazine, Michael Moss wrote about his research involving junk food, as part of an soon-to-be published book, “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us”. Mr. Moss has uncovered some fascinating tactics used by food manufacturers to keep us hitting the snack aisle.
- Bliss point – optimizing each component in a product that the consumer likes to create the highest level of craving, keeping the food good enough to want to eat, but not so good that you tire of the food.
- Stomach share – how much each brand can dominate the market versus their competitors.
- Sensory-specific satiety – design foods that taste good, but avoid any single distinct flavor that would tell you to stop eating.
- Mouth feel – the positive interaction of food with the mouth in terms of moisture and texture (think chips).
- Sweet range – the range of acceptable taste that may allow manufacturer to adjust costly ingredients to the lowest acceptable level in order to reduce cost
- Vanishing caloric density – ability of food to dissolve or shrink while eating, giving you the impression that you are eating less (Cheetos?)
Each of these factors is considered in the design and marketing of snack foods. In this way, convenience foods like Lunchables end up including nearly a full day’s maximum amounts of fat, sodium and sugar. Yogurt, which used to be considered a health food, has become a dessert given the amount of added sugar in each serving.
For information about healthy eating, visit Student Health Services. Our providers can advise you and refer you to nutrition services for further assistance.
Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health)