Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

Book Review by Leo Trevino

Why can’t we just eat one? Why are those potato chips so addicting?

Well…be careful what you wish for! In Michael Moss‘s New York Times Best selling book, Salt Sugar Fat, we get all those answers and WAY more.

Many of the products that line the shelves in grocery stores started in a laboratory. That’s correct, you read that right, a laboratory! Many processed foods are purposely deigned to not only taste great, but to make you come back for more, and more, and more, and more!

When scientist were graduating from college, many went to work directly for the food companies! Objective: Create foods that are irresistible and don’t stop working until it’s done!

Here are my key takeaways…

  • The food industry coined the term “bliss point.” The perfect combination of sugar in a product. One can even extend this to be the combination of sugar, salt and fat that food companies were experimenting with in order to make products taste good.
  • Sugar is addicting. In a study with rats, they found that between a choice of cocaine and sugar, the rats would always pick the sugar. Sugar lights up parts of our brain that signal our regard center. This was then exploited by the sugar and food industry in products they created.
  • One great quote from the book talks about the effects on sugar with children. “It’s not that we are teaching our kids to like sweet foods, rather we are teaching kids what food should taste like.” Very profound indeed. If kids are considering a “oreo” as food, and that “this” is what food should taste like, then it makes it much harder to break that cycle when they try “real” foods that don’t have these crazy taste stimulants. Foods that are void of the “bliss point.”
  • Dietary fat has a similar effect like sugar, causing the reward center of the brain to light up. It also has another effect as far as taste, a “gooey, sticky mouthfeel.” Think of cheese as a great example of this. This sensation is unique to dietary fats. One reason that is speculated that our rewards center lights up in the brain is because of the vast amount of energy we receive when eating dietary fat, as opposed to protein and carbs.
  • Salt brings everything back around and make a perfect companion to both sugar and fat. Think of sweet & sour chicken and pizza! Combinations of fat, salt and sugar that is just divine to the taste buds. Salt also plays it’s role as a preservative because of it’s ability to absorb and hold water, thus preventing bacteria growth. It also helps that we also have a “taste” for salt.

This book dives deep into what the food industry is doing behind the scenes. Many great reference to insiders who were there first hand during some of these pivotal moments in the what we now call “Big Food.” Gives good insights and ends with a surprise bang! Perfect for anyone who wants to know more about the processed food industry and its effects on society.

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