Yes, Oreos are as Addictive as–or more addictive than–drugs. That’s not news.

But didn’t we know that already?

The quintessential fast-food trio of “burger, fries and Coke” perfectly illustrates the food industry’s ability to capitalize on our most instinctual taste preferences. Unlike, say, a pot of vegetable stew or a bowl of apple slices, the fast-food trio contains all three potent tastes–salt, sugar and fat in combination–endlessly engineered, tested and retested for “hyperpalatability,” making them addictive as well as irresistible.

Flickr Credit: Bowen Murphy. Used under CC license.
Flickr Credit: Bowen Murphy. Used under CC license.

Fast-food chicken tenders–even the kind made with “real” chicken breast–are softened, conditioned, injected, salted, sweetened, coated, fried, tested, retested and adjusted to press all the right buttons in your mouth and brain.

As David Kessler explains in The End of Overeating, the foods […] dished up by the industry are designed, reworked, tweaked and readjusted to deliver the maximum amount of addictive, “hyperpalatable” effect. This processing tends also to increase the number of calories we can take in with a minimal effort, much like the effortlessly drinkable “cupcake in a cup” envisioned in the playfully futuristic movie Wall-E.

PET imaging shows that on the level of neurochemistry, “hyperpalatable” foods have the same effect on human brains as drugs like heroin, opium, and morphine. Tasty, rich food combinations like these were once rare and expensive, if not entirely non-existent, but now they’re cheap, ubiquitous and addictive–and don’t you think for a moment that the food companies don’t know it.

I know I’m not alone in regarding this as an issue of justice, especially when you consider that the majority of government subsidies go toward crops that are raw materials for these hyper-engineered, hyper-addictive foods–which is why, calorie for calorie, potato chips are cheaper than carrots, and soda contains some of the cheapest calories in the whole supermarket. It’s people who are poor who end up paying the highest costs for all this, to say nothing of the expense that diet-related disease presents to the taxpayer.

If that’s not an unjustly earned profit–“swallowing up the needy and making the poor of the land to fail,” as the prophet Amos put it in the KJV–I don’t know what is.

{also see my book Eat With Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food. Parts of this post originally appeared there.}

Weekend Eating Reading

…the weekly weekend post!

Weekend Eating Reading briefly discusses at least one good book that’s somehow related to ‘joyful eating,’ and is, throughout the weekend, updated with links to notable or newsworthy articles on topics relevant to readers of this blog.

This week’s books:

Guess which is designed to make you eat more than you want to--carrots or carrot cake?

The End of Overeating, by David A. Kessler, MD

The British have a term for it–“more-ish.” It means a food that you WANT TO EAT MORE OF. Or, maybe more precisely, a food that makes YOU want to eat more of IT. If you’ve ever struggled with overeating, whether occasionally or chronically–and maybe even if you haven’t–you’ll want to read this book. It offers a staggering account of the science that goes into engineering foods to make them hyperpalatable–that is, to make them press all the right buttons in your body and brain to get you to want more, more, more, and more. This book is fascinating and disturbing. Read it! (or read more about it here, first.)

Oh! And this book:

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think by Brian Wansink, PhD

The picture’s extra big because that’s what American serving sizes are like–EXTRA BIG. And guess what? When packages are extra big, and you can’t get a good visual clue on what you’re eating, YOU EAT MORE, even if you don’t really like it. (!) And that’s just the way Big Food wants it.  This book’s also got some fascinating science, though it’s more psychological than bio- & neuro-chemical (as the other one is.) There’s lots of fun stuff to read about here.

More links will appear hear as the weekend goes on:

Chilling cartoon about widespread starvation in Somalia & US nonresponse HERE

HuffPo’s reporting on the ground turkey fiasco HERE

Cassie Green, remarkable food person! Read about her HERE

Enjoy it! And eat your food with JOY!