T Nation

Our Obsesssion w/ Sugar, Fat, Salt

Interesting read about the food industry’s manipulation of our taste buds to lure us to eat the processed shit that we do.

One of the things that really surprised me was how concerted and targeted the effort is by food companies to hit the magical formulation.

Take sugar for example. The optimum amount of sugar in a product became known as the “bliss point.” Food inventors and scientists spend a huge amount of time formulating the perfect amount of sugar that will send us over the moon, and send products flying off the shelves. It is the process they’ve engineered that struck me as really stunning.
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When it came to fat, it was the amazing role of what the industry calls the “mouth feel.” That’s the warm, gooey taste of cheese, or the bite into a crisp fried chicken that you get. It rushes right to the same pleasure centers of the brain that sugar does, but fat is carrying twice as many calories, so it is more problematic from an obesity standpoint. There is almost no limit to the bliss point in fat. If there is one, it’s up in heavy cream some place.

So the companies discovered they could add as much fat as they wanted to products, and unless people looked closely at the nutrition facts, they are going to totally love it more than they would without the fat.

When it comes to salt, what was really staggering to me is that the industry itself is totally hooked on salt. It is this miracle ingredient that solves all of their problems. There is the flavor burst to the salt itself, but it also serves as a preservative so foods can stay on the shelves for months. It also masks a lot of the off-notes in flavors that are inherent to processed foods.

On this topic, if you haven’t read “The End of Overeating” by David Kessler, it’s worth the time. At least one guy mentioned his book in the comments to the article you linked. I read it last year.

Kessler goes into how the food industry formulates foods with the ideal amount of fat/sugar/salt. It also goes into a lot of detail about how overeating and binge eating can create patterns in how our brain responds to food - rewiring if you will - that are VERY hard to break. The more often you overeat certain foods, the more likely that you will do it again. There’s a biology to this, and it explains why so many people can’t seem to “get the willpower” to loose weight, and why binge eating is such a problem.

What Works?

Of people who are really successful at getting lean and staying lean, many just completely avoid certain foods. As in NEVER or VERY RARELY eat things that they would be prone to overeat. For nearly all of us, that’s going to be some combination of foods high in fat/sugar/salt.

Also, people who are really lean tend to eat some of the same basic foods everyday. Bodybuilders have known this for years. Honestly, I think this is a strategy that works best for me.

Eat a limited list of foods everyday, and basically NEVER or very RARELY eat certain foods.

^ You’re absolutely right, and although this seems like common sense for the most of us (not to mention for those of us whose ‘cheat meals’ look like the normal Friday dinners of some people), there are so many folks out there who wouldn’t consider never or rarely eating particular dangerous foods to be common sense since they’ve been conditioned as children (or, often, adults) to do otherwise.

I’m not one who would ever tell my child never to eat ice cream, fries or chips, but I think so many parents have themselves become lost in/are in denial about their own poor eating habits that they can’t set a good example for their own kin and ultimately fail at nurturing healthy eating at home. This is a big thing.

Yep, the sugar industry has been pretty evil …

Caught an interview with Moss on radio last week. Really quite interesting. He elaborated that one food company, Kraft, I think has/had a goal to reduce salt/sugar/fat in all fast food, but started to loose market share, coupled with the rest of industry told them to go pound sand when they looked for cooperation.

He also shared his experience at a food companies lab, tasting several popular food with varying degrees of same s/s/f. He could not believe the differences.

^ Badger, about sugar in food labels - A lot of people don’t realize that the manufacturers break down different types of sugar to avoid listing it as the first ingredient in a food.

For example, a product list for cereal might read Oats, Dried cane syrup, Honey, Dextrose, Brown Sugar, salt. Notice that after oats, the next four ingredients are all SUGAR. If you combine them, sugar would probably be the top ingredient in the box of cereal. Deceptive, right?


Honestly, the advice that people should eat whatever they want “in moderation” is actually terrible advice for a lot of people. People in the fitness industry tell people this all the time. Moderation. For sure it’s bad advice for someone who is overweight and already has some unhealthy/ addictive attitudes toward food. Just eat 10 Peanut M&Ms, or just eat 7 Doritos, or whatever your trigger food is. It’s usually easier to just not eat them at all. It’s not a matter of willpower, it’s just the way we are wired. That’s what Kessler would advise for any food that you tend to eat too much of.

Here’s a Washington Post write-up on the Kessler book for people who are interested. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-04-27/news/36916774_1_ingredient-labels-kessler-food-industry


About the sugar/fat/salt combination - We all know it’s true. I buy grapefruit in 5 pound bags. I’ve never gone off the rails and eaten more than 1/2 a grapefruit. Even bananas. They are high in sugars, but they don’t have the fat and salt. Very few of us are going to eat the whole bunch.

Some foods are different. They are almost impossible to eat in moderation, at least for a large percentage of people.

^ Always listen to the Puff.

I also find it comedic irony that the United States ties in it’s food regulation with their pharmaceutical industry (FDA).

I don’t consider myself a conspiracy guy, but if you find a way to get people sick, then they need meds for all sorts of shit. Both groups profit.

Every time I have some kind of imported food from Europe from a nearby deli, I eat less naturally and find myself more satisfied with tastier food.

[quote]Powerpuff wrote:

Honestly, the advice that people should eat whatever they want “in moderation” is actually terrible advice for a lot of people. People in the fitness industry tell people this all the time. Moderation. For sure it’s bad advice for someone who is overweight and already has some unhealthy/ addictive attitudes toward food. Just eat 10 Peanut M&Ms, or just eat 7 Doritos, or whatever your trigger food is.

[/quote]

^^^ The Weight Watchers concept. I really try to bite my tongue when people PRAISE Jenifer Hudson.

Even arguments in our own fitness community all the time when someone comes in for weight loss advice… the IIFYM army comes storming in.

Kudos to those who can just have half a bagel out of the box of free ones everyday at work.

Salt, fat, and sugar are the hardest substances to find in nature and the human brain has become especially adapted to coveting them.

The easiest way to overcome addiction to salt and sugar is to just remove it completely from diet. As far as fat goes, the natural amount found in real food is probably totally safe for consumption and as far as I know does not have any addictive qualities - for example, I’ve never once sat around desiring fat all by itself but rather as ice cream or bacon, etc., when it comes with the other two “magic” ingredients.

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Salt, fat, and sugar are the hardest substances to find in nature and the human brain has become especially adapted to coveting them.

The easiest way to overcome addiction to salt and sugar is to just remove it completely from diet. As far as fat goes, the natural amount found in real food is probably totally safe for consumption and as far as I know does not have any addictive qualities - for example, I’ve never once sat around desiring fat all by itself but rather as ice cream or bacon, etc., when it comes with the other two “magic” ingredients.[/quote]

I agree, but there are very few foods that have all of these (or even some of these ingredients) naturally on their own. Bacon has fat, and salt, but no sugar. Starch has sugar (in some form) but no fat.

I recall somewhere where the most harmful food possible was pizza (I am talking about shit from Dominos or Pizza Hut). This kind of pizza has tons of calories, salt, fat, sugar, partially-hydrogenated oils, it’s an all-around Titanic headed into your stomach.

I also recommend the book, The End of Overeating. Even if you don’t have that problem, the insight into the food industry is fascinating. The studies they do on animals to insure maximal addiction before marketing it to humans is shocking.

Also, the book gets into the fact that lean people can still have food addictions. They just resist them (or resist large amounts of those problematic foods) but still have a problem because they’re obsessed: always thinking about junk foods, always wracked with cravings, always unhappy etc. Good read.

[quote]MaximusB wrote:

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Salt, fat, and sugar are the hardest substances to find in nature and the human brain has become especially adapted to coveting them.

The easiest way to overcome addiction to salt and sugar is to just remove it completely from diet. As far as fat goes, the natural amount found in real food is probably totally safe for consumption and as far as I know does not have any addictive qualities - for example, I’ve never once sat around desiring fat all by itself but rather as ice cream or bacon, etc., when it comes with the other two “magic” ingredients.[/quote]

I agree, but there are very few foods that have all of these (or even some of these ingredients) naturally on their own. Bacon has fat, and salt, but no sugar. Starch has sugar (in some form) but no fat.

I recall somewhere where the most harmful food possible was pizza (I am talking about shit from Dominos or Pizza Hut). This kind of pizza has tons of calories, salt, fat, sugar, partially-hydrogenated oils, it’s an all-around Titanic headed into your stomach.[/quote]

Extra dipping butter, please!