Junk Foods Are Manipulated by Chemical Engineers to Make us Overeat

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that the foods we eat today don’t even remotely resemble what we used to eat throughout history.

Instead of being hunted, gathered or farmed in their natural form, foods are increasingly being produced in factories.

Many of these products don’t contain much real food at all. Some of them contain highly refined ingredients like wheat flour, corn syrup and vegetable oils. They are then made palatable using artificial flavors and various processing techniques.

Everything is done to maximize chances of repeat purchase and minimize cost. The health impact these foods have is secondary.

The video above is a clip from 60 minutes, where they take a peek inside the flavor industry.

Crazy Chemist

How Foods Are Engineered to Make us Eat More

There are many ways to make foods taste good and give us pleasure.

One of the best ways is to use a combination of sugar, salt and fat to maximize the impact these foods have on our taste receptors and reward pathways in the brain.

Adding artificial flavors to the mix along with various textures just makes these foods too good to resist.

The food industry takes full advantage of this. Not because it is a big conspiracy, but because they’ve learned what gets the consumers to buy more.

The food industry’s job is to make money and sell products. By making foods “hyper palatable” (very rewarding) they hijack the reward pathways in the brain to make us literally addicted to these foods.

This turns customers into repeat customers and big food makes lots of money. The problem is that these foods destroy the health of the people who eat them.

The abundance of such foods is probably one of the key drivers of the obesity and diabetes epidemics.

It is the reason people become addicted to these foods and literally can not stop eating even though they know the foods are causing them severe harm.

62 Comments

  1. Sounds like an over-simplified, vengeful conspiracy theory to me. Please gather all of the facts before you spew your hate. Foods are produced in factories for many other reasons than the ignorant rants you have written above. Natural food contains quite a lot of variation in flavor depending on where it was grown, when it was harvested, and how long it has been sitting around. A lot of these food companies live and die by their brand name and reputation. By processing these foods, they can more control the flavor and shelf-life of their foods. Which are the things that make consumers repeat buyers.

    • I’m not “spewing hate” – I’m simply covering a clip from CBS’s 60 minutes show in a blog post.

      These are facts. This is how the food industry makes their products hyper-palatable to get people “hooked” on their products. This turns consumers into repeat buyers, but it is ruining peoples’ health at the same time.

      People need to be aware of the powerful impact these foods can have on the biochemistry of the brain. Hyper-palatable junk foods activate the same pathways in the brain as drugs of abuse like nicotine and cocaine. This is one of the main reasons people start overeating and become obese.

      • Kris said:

        “Hyper-palatable junk foods activate the same pathways in the brain as drugs of abuse like nicotine and cocaine. This is one of the main reasons people start overeating and become obese.”

        The main reason by far is laziness, inactivity and greed which leads to people becoming fatter and fatter and taking less and less exercise and sitting/lying around for long periods, watching TV, and eating a lot of high calorie foods.

        In the vast majority of cases it is the fault of the people themselves, but it is so much more comforting, popular among the viewers and politically-fashionable to cobble together a lot of bogus non-science and blame nasty, capitalist, big business – the usual enemy of the left-wing media. Irresponsible eaters with a lazy, inactive, lifestyle love to hear this excuse for their own failings and they are encouraged to continue their dangerous lifestyle by programmes like this.

        Why not blame the television for making people stupid, passive, inactive and for encouraging them to sit for ages and become bloated couch-potatoes? Why not blame the TV for then excusing this with ‘comfort’ propaganda which encourages them to continue their appalling attitudes and lifestyle by telling them that it is not their fault? Why not blame the television? Because the television controls the message and won’t criticize itself and, furthermore, being predominantly Left-wing / Liberal and supportive of the Big State it continually campaigns against its enemy: ‘big’ business and consumer choice – and encourages people to be passive recipients of State nagging and control.

        What we need are programmes that tell people two things:

        1/ The only way you will improve your diet and lifestyle and consequently, the health of you and your children is to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your actions and not blame others.

        2/ It is a free country (I’m English – also applies to the USA) and if you want to get really fat and dangerously unhealthy, it is YOUR CHOICE, we cannot send health fascists to your house to bully you – however BLAME YOURSELF for the results and do not fall into the fatally dangerous trap of believing the television. The television is feeding you comforting, mind-doughnuts – mental junk food – which by encouraging your lack of self control is as psychologically injurious as boxes of sweets and doughnuts are metabolically damaging.

        • That sounds good Andrew but the reality is that these companies prey on consumer to in slave them and make them fat! How can a person with no drive and motivation lose weight when the food is causing them to look and feel that way.

          • “the reality is that these companies prey on consumer to in slave them and make them fat!”

            No, they have to survive in the market place and they want to increase profits. The anti-food company political propaganda has persuaded you that they have these evil motives but, simply, they are businesses run by and staffed by people like you and me, who bear no ill will to anyone, but need to make money and compete. They do that by responding to consumer demand. Some companies use unscrupulous methods but as in any free-enterprise, market-led, system, we pay a lot of taxes to employ regulators and to have experts create laws to protect us. If they are not doing that, then they are letting us down and letting down the majority of businesses with integrity – the latter are unjustly penalized in the market-place because the bad businesses get away with it and can make greater profits unfairly. This encourages more bad practice – where are the regulators? Write to your MP – lobby your Congressman/woman !

            You really must think for yourself and resist this political propaganda – it is composed of exaggerations, distortions and lies, designed to stir up your emotions and engender an unthinking knee-jerk, hate-business reaction. I lived in Communist Russia for a while – you certainly would hate State control of food!

        • Barry Bridges says:

          I totally agree andrew ;-) Then why not re-educate people. For one thing the “lipid hypotheseis” is flawed science. When people get re-educated to stop eating the wrong foods, we will have people that won’t need to binge, because they will be consuming the right nutrients.

          • Jordan Swanson says:

            Companies exist for the purpose of selling their product, often to the taste desires of their consumer base. If there is enough push for a low fat alternative, they will choose it. However, there is no incentive. There is no push. Flavors are chosen because they are appealing to the consumer base. If that changes, the companies will move in an instant.

      • Actually, when he says ‘spewing hate’ (incidentally an insult you used against me, later) he was talking about the programme. It wasn’t directed at you but if it had been, that would have been very unfair – as it was when you used it against me. I agree with Nick.

        Just to say, I probably shan’t post here again – you’ve succeeded; another disbeliever flung from the temple. You’ve insulted me and threatened to gag me. This is clearly a site for your disciples to tell you and each other just how right and virtuous they are about nutrition and associated issues.

        Tragically ironic that this is run by ‘Speak Your Mind’ – it should be: ‘Agree With Kris’.

        There are other sites with people with open and truly scientific minds – i.e. not run on religious principles for a mutually-supporting clique of ideologues, bolstering their dogma with meretricious television trash and carefully selected, tendentious, bogus ‘science.’

        • Andrew, if Britain and the USA are “free countries” where we should be able to sell anything for the sake of making a living, why can’t I sell cocaine to those who want energy to get about their daily business and get things done?

          It’s for the same reason, we shouldn’t allow these types of non-foods on the market. Plain and simple.

          It’s hard to live a healthy lifestyle on cocaine, same with junk food, I’d even go to the extreme and say cocaine is better for you than junk food!

          But make no doubt, both of these substances should be illegal for the health of the people. We have SWAT teams swarm in and shoot people and terrorize countries who deal with cocaine and support legal big business that does the exact same thing. The problem is hypocritical politicians/business found a loophole where they can sell drugs without labeling them as such.

          What do think about that Mr. Moneybags Andrew?

          • What makes these foods different from cocaine + other addictive chemicals and drugs?

            For one, they don’t make you very insane, very quickly. Having worked with actual current and former drug abusers, it’s kind of hilarious and a little sad to see someone (albeit anonymously on the internet) compare the radical addiction of such substances with something as mundane as junk food.

            While Kris does have a point; salt, sugar, and certain fats and additives do actually stimulate reward pathways in your brain and make you feel good about eating them. However, so do endorphins. Much more so, even. You will feel much better after an hour of working out than you will after a bag of chips.

            To compare junk food with cocaine is an overstatement of (pardon the cliche) epic proportions, and I will reiterate that it is sad to see such a statement so lightly made. Additionally, Andrew has a point in saying that these people who allow themselves to become “addicted to junk food” are more victims of their own laziness than they are of some giant business scheme. Sure those companies engineer their products like that, but so do car manufacturers (Chevy cars start with ‘c’ names because the sound is calming and feels safe), advertising agencies (bright colors and smiling faces), churches, movie theaters, and so on and so on. No one is forcing these people to live and eat like this.

            The only real answer is for people to be willing to go out and do something, anything, for themselves. A world run by instant gratification is a world decaying.

    • @Nick

      Sure, food companies might not have the intent of fattening up the population, but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to make money! Of course they will maximize profits, and the only way you can do that is to sell more product! That’s why the grocery store has a small fresh produce aisle vs the processed foods section. Consumers don’t buy a lot of straight from the farm foods. There is actually an economic theory connected to this, as income goes up, food consumption stays constant, meaning it does not increase with income that much. So food companies have to design foods that override this, meaning, they need to make something taste so good that you will eat more than you need.

    • Yes, Nick. It is the usual politically-inspired, anti-business attitude. Consumers want cheaper food, easier food, quicker food, tastier food with a predictable taste – food companies respond to the demand, then food pundits and ideologues attack the companies for the parsimony, greed, irresponsibility and stupidity of the consumer. WE have to take responsibility for our decisions in life; it is not acceptable that bloated slobs with diabetes can turn around and blame big business. Of course, a few food companies are cashing in on people’s sloth, greed and stupidity and behaving unscrupulously – we pay State regulators to prevent that, why aren’t they doing their job?

      The real issue is the massive increase among the populace in irresponsibility, laziness and stupidity regarding healthy eating. Avoiding responsibility by continually employing the fashionable and facile political slant of attacking business has been, and is, making the situation far worse.

      • That is a really hateful comment and you should be ashamed of yourself for talking about other people like that.

        Not everyone who is overweight/obese is lazy, stupid or a bloated slob. There are many obese, highly intelligent people who have had enormous success in all other aspects of their lives.

        This article was not written with a political agenda and I am not “blaming” anyone. I am merely pointing out how junk foods, made by the big food companies, hijack the reward pathways in the brain to cause overeating. I don’t think you have an understanding of how that works, otherwise you wouldn’t talk this way.

        • “That is a really hateful comment and you should be ashamed of yourself for talking about other people like that.”

          But it’s OK to ascribe all sorts of vile motives to people in business – that’s not ‘hateful’ to use your school-marm word.

          You should be ashamed of yourself for helping the great propaganda movement which says: it’s OK, it’s not your fault; it’s the fault of the nasty Food Companies – Booo! Hiss! By doing this you are encouraging people to avoid taking personal responsibility for their eating and lifestyle – it is THIS populist and weak attitude that has wreaked havoc on people’s health and caused so much suffering. By promulgating these bogus excuses, you are helping people to avoid the real issue. Yes it makes you look kind and understanding and it feels good to give ‘Big Business’ a good kicking ….. but it causes untold harm to these fat, dangerously unhealthy people. They need to be encouraged to take control of their lives – all you do is give them yet another excuse not to – and have yet another doughnut – blaming the food industry for their own failings. You should be ashamed.

          • Okay, so you basically believe that obesity is caused by some sort of moral failure? That people eat too much and exercise too little. Calories in, calories out. That it’s a behavioral issue, right?

            Well, there is biochemistry and physiology underlying every behavior. Neural circuits and hormones dictate what we do and when we do it. That is an indisputable fact. You don’t disagree with that, do you?

            What I am trying to say is that the way the foods are composed today, that they disrupt the systems in the brain that are supposed to control our food intake.

            A big player in all of this is the molecule fructose, from sugars and high fructose corn syrup, and the hormone leptin and the neurotransmitter dopamine. The western diet causes a disruption in these hormones and the regulatory system inherent to the brain that is supposed to prevent us from becoming obese.

            The obesity epidemic began sharply around the year 1980. It doesn’t really make sense that one day humans just became greedy and lazy and decided to become obese. No, the environment changed, not the people.

            If you had any understanding of the neurobiology of obesity then you would know that the issue goes way beyond some sort of moral failure.

            (I’m not blaming the food companies. Their job is to make money. If anything, I blame the regulators for allowing this to happen. The only thing I blame the food companies for is marketing these products towards children.)

            There is an article coming out tomorrow about how the western diet (mainly because of excess fructose) sets up a relentless biochemical drive in the brain to cause overeating.

            We are not robots. The areas in the brain that control food intake aren’t the same as the areas that control logic and reason. “Willpower” simply can not overpower the leptin-driven starvation response and the reward-seeking behaviour caused by the effects these foods have on the brain. The brain simply doesn’t work that way.

            Understanding how these foods affect people (again, not blaming the food companies) is critical to understand how obesity occurs and how to reverse it. Blaming it on moral failure, greed and lazyness is common. This is part of the problem and directs peoples attention away from the real issue.

            By the way… there are obese infants today. How can you say that obese 6 months olds are just greedy and lazy?

            P.S. Here are some papers for you to look at. I highly recommend you read them before spewing more hate about obese people and their condition, which you clearly have no actual understanding of.

            http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/2/1/5
            http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/89/6/2963.short
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23280226
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15111494
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18703413

            Also read up on the hormone leptin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptin

            Obesity is partly caused by behavior. But what is driving the behavior? That is the question that matters and the answer lies in understanding the biochemistry of the brain and how the western diet affects it.

        • “I am merely pointing out how junk foods, made by the big food companies, hijack the reward pathways in the brain to cause overeating. I don’t think you have an understanding of how that works, otherwise you wouldn’t talk this way.”

          This is the usual bogus science that has a belief then sets out to ‘prove’ it. Where is the genuine, unbiased, research that indicates this? You are basing your belief on your own predilections and a deeply biased, trashy, populist bit of TV entertainment.

          I was fat and I know the process – I became a slob, even though I am an intelligent, educated, professional. I know the excuses – although I was never so stupid and weak as to blame the food companies – I know how I needed to take responsibility and BLAME MYSELF not others or circumstances. I had to look at myself in the mirror and look at old photos and see how I had let myself down and realize that I was developing insulin resistance because of my sloth and irresponsibility. I have lost all that weight and through intermittent fasting and low carb, meat-based, diet, I have no diabetic symptoms. The very LAST thing that fat, inactive, people, like I was, need is MORE EXCUSES ! It is far worse if they are uneducated and believe what the television and ideologues tell them.

          Liberals and such overtly ‘caring’ people are often obsessed with their image and it looks good and feels good to appear kind and understanding and be constantly doling out excuses and ‘understanding’ to fat slobs – what the fat slobs need is encouragement to reject the excuses and take control by really understanding that it is THEIR fault that they are a fat slob who is becoming ill because of their lazy, stupid and weak attitude to eating and exercise. That is what I needed and two friends of mine and my dear girlfriend told me that, very clearly – they were and are true friends. They cared for me far more than they feared appearing ‘hateful’.

          ‘Kindness’ and handing out excuses feels good and looks good for the Liberals – but it is ruining the lives of these people and killing them.

          • I am not handing out excuses. If you look at more pages on this blog then you will realize that I encourage overweight people to take responsibility and do something about their condition.

            But we have a major disagreement about obesity being some sort of moral failure (see my response above).

          • Bystander says:

            He gave you 3 pubmed articles. Those are typically well-respected, objective, and always peer-reviewed. I get the feeling you didn’t look at them.

  2. ‘A lot of these food companies live and die by their brand name and reputation.’ They sure do and tweak their product so that we buy more and more and become addicted. They may not want the end result for us to be obese, but the fact is that is the end result. The more we ‘tinker’ with our food the worse it is for all of us. I would ‘rant’ against the farmers who mess around with our fruit and veg, pesticides etc and our meat. Leave it all alone and let us eat it in its natural form. Enough is enough and the back-lash against this kind of over-production of our food is coming, we need to stand together and tell these companies that we don’t want their poor quality rubbish.

    There’s a rant for you Nick :)

    • I find this so repulsive. I can’t believe we are allowed by those that are supposed to look after us let this monstrosity get into our food chain.

      I’ve had enough; count me in your rant June.

    • June,
      Blaming the farmers for chemical use isn’t really right either. They are just sold a bill of goods by the manufacturers of how this or that is going to save their crop from this or another disaster. Also, the seeds have become so genetically modified, that they need this whole system of chemical usage to prop them up to sustain their productive life.There are so many factors involved here including the big seed and chem companies, soil health sustained by natural means and university research (funded by the big companies, I might add) and other issues that it’s too long to go into. But the point is, casting blame on the farmer isn’t necessarily the right direction for the blame.

  3. No big conspiracy or secret there. If you set up a company why do you do it? To earn money. How do you earn money? By selling products. Two options: sell volume cheap or premium expensive. How do you maximise your profits? Buy cheap sell expensive, get the customer to buy more and more of your product. Get the best possible margin at the lowest possible cost. But at 20 cents sell at 20 Dollars, make your stuff look good and don’t sell products but promises and ideas. That’s all there is to it.

  4. Nick, did you read the same article as I did? The reason I ask is the above article was informative and well written whereas you speak of spewing hate… Such limited intelligence should not be allowed on the internet, the sooner Nick gets his new crayons the better.

  5. It distorts the issue if one begins with the usual politically-driven, anti-business premise.

    Why cannot you be more objective and honest? The problem of unhealthy eating began with people becoming lazy about food and also changes in family and work patterns, then food companies responding to that and then ensued a feedback whereby companies developed easier and ‘tastier’ foods and the consumers became lazier and lazier, less discerning and less intelligent and responsible about their health. Accordingly, more and more consumers demanded more of such food. Of course, some food and drink companies in their need to make a profit, survive and compete have helped to fuel the consumption of unhealthy food by unscrupulous advertising and practices – but as well as pointing the finger at them, we have to blame the regulators for this – we pay our taxes for them to prevent this behavior: why aren’t they doing their job?

    When there has been a demand for healthier and more natural food, business has responded – wholemeal bread, real beers and wines, more healthy fast food, better milk, eggs and greater ranges of fresh fruit and vegetables, for example.

    Ignoring the ESSENTIAL element of consumer choice renders your whole argument fallacious and politically tendentious.

    I have no connection with the food industry whatsoever but it behooves each of us to think for ourselves, be honest and not be brainwashed by anti-business bias.

    WE are responsible for what we stick in our mouths – for decades it has been so easy and politically fashionable to blame ‘big’ business.

    • “It distorts the issue if one begins with the usual politically-driven, anti-business premise.”

      I’m not blaming anyone in the article, I am not against business and I couldn’t possibly care less about politics.

      I also think the article is written in a fairly objective tone, mainly outlining the major points from the 60 minutes clip. Did you even read the article or watch the clip?

      • “I also think the article is written in a fairly objective tone, ”

        Hardly, you make it abundantly clear that this biased television entertainment is telling the truth – you obviously wish to believe this stuff and expect us to as well. The television is the greatest source of bias, lies and distortion in the world, yet you assume that all they say is true – because it suits your ideas.

      • By the way, I read the article and watched the clip – but I read and watched as a thinking, questioning, entity with a mind not as an idiot sucking up the propaganda and bogus, biased ‘science’.

        • Be polite or I will delete your comments.

          My view is based on peer-reviewed science (see my comment above) – not propaganda or television.

          • “By the way, I read the article and watched the clip – but I read and watched as a thinking, questioning, entity with a mind not as an idiot sucking up the propaganda and bogus, biased ‘science’.”

            When I said ‘idiot’, obviously I was not referring to you because it says: ‘read the article’ – but I was referring to the fact that millions of people believe what they are told – especially if it’s on the TV. This is very dangerous, for these unquestioning idiots create tyrants like Hitler. So no apologies for the use of the mild word ‘idiots’ – I have used worse terms to describe myself in my postings.

            I am sure you know that I wasn’t referring to you but obviously it suits you to contrive an excuse for gagging me – you don’t agree with me and I may even be forcing you to uncomfortably confront your bias and some of your assumptions.

            Anyway you are the master of this board and you can exercise your tyranny by gagging those who disagree with you, if you wish. But think on this if you ever have the effrontery to tell someone that you believe in Free Speech.

            ‘I disagree vehemently with what you say, but shall defend to the death your right to say it.’ Ascribed to Voltaire.

        • Every Saturday I post a YouTube video with a commentary. I wouldn’t post a video if I didn’t know it to be true from other reliable sources.

  6. There’s no ‘Reply’ facility for your last points with the references.

    I have spent several years reading a lot of scientific papers about obesity, diabetes, the metabolism etc. I have a scientific background and am interested in the functions of the cell, in particular. I became all the more interested when two of my friends developed Type 2 diabetes and I work as a volunteer in that sector as well as with other health-related issues. Consequently, throwing a bunch of selected references at me is not going to wrong-foot me. The main concern for anyone involved in this area is the validity of the research and we have to be very careful about what we believe because, as in many fields – a trenchant example is Man-Made Global Warming – a lot of the ‘science’ is skewed and misleading – often deliberately but, of course, there can be an unconscious bias. In an alarming number of cases there are downright lies and omissions of contradictory data.

    People in the area of nutrition are often quite polarized and seek out what supports their bias from the plethora of research and findings. Moreover, many ‘scientists’ / researchers seek to ‘prove’ what they already believe.

    You see human behaviour as a result of chemical interactions in the brain – well yes, so it is …. but there is so much more. We do have Will and are not mere puppets of these chemical reactions. This argument is highly complex and veers into metaphysics but we are much more than slaves to these reactions and can have great influence over our behaviour and over the functioning of the brain and body / metabolism. To leave out the essential element of human will is a blinkered and dangerous way to see the problem. It encourages people to give up all attempts to control their actions – I know from my own experience and from helping others that the Will to change is essential.

    • Well, then we seem to agree on the main points. I also believe that people need to take control of their actions and exert responsibility. In fact, many people have followed my advice and lost a lot of weight.

      I also agree that nutrition as a whole is extremely biased and everything must be taken with a grain of salt… even if it’s peer-reviewed research.

      Biochemistry and neurobiology can explain why people become obese, but knowing that doesn’t really do much for the individual. The cause of obesity and the cure are two completely different things, mixing them together can cause confusion.

      Ultimately it is the individual that needs to take control and change their lifestyle if they want to reverse the condition. I have never said anything to the contrary and in fact encourage people to do exactly that.

      • It is such a shame that you did not write like this in the first place in your review of that CBS programme.

        You come across as a questioning, thinking individual as opposed to a zealot.

        “I also agree that nutrition as a whole is extremely biased and everything must be taken with a grain of salt… even if it’s peer-reviewed research.”

        Exactly. We cannot trust ‘research’ and ‘science’ per se. So why on Earth should we believe a specious television programme for mass consumption which therefore has to make dramatic, sensationalist and absolutist revelations? Moreover a programme with an obvious political agenda?

        Is this website for thinking, educated, people or just for the blinkered acolytes of your dogma?

        • Like I said, I post YouTube videos each Saturday with a commentary. I find that watching videos can be inspiring and motivating in ways that text can not achieve. I only choose videos with information that I know to be true from other more reliable sources.

          If you look around you will see that most of my articles are based on evidence, with various references to the scientific literature.

          Most of what I know about the food industry’s tactics comes from a book called The End of Overeating, a highly referenced book written by a well respected medical doctor.

  7. ” I highly recommend you read them before spewing more hate about obese people and their condition, which you clearly have no actual understanding of.”

    Have you been obese? I have and also have helped a number of fat and obese people.

    ‘spewing more hate’ Great being a tyrant, isn’t it? You can insult people but when I used the word ‘idiot’ for people who believe whatever their told however wrong and dangerous it is, you threaten to gag me.

    • Correction: they’re told

    • I appreciate the article and since I have removed processed foods (80%) at this point…in 3 weeks I have lost 8lbs and feel SO much better. What Kris is saying is true. If I avoid those foods and eat cleaner, more organic, I don’t crave the junk at all! The proof of what he saying is in the results!

      • Well done – congratulations! Of course, it is good to avoid processed foods – that is what I did in conjunction with intermittent fasting – which suits some people but not others – what Kris says about this is excellent and it works for most people, I believe.

        What I object to is this constant drive to blame the food industry and thereby take the responsibility and the route to better health from us. I was an irresponsible slob – I made excuses for overeating, eating the wrong food and not exercising – my problem was not taking a grip and the last thing I needed – and this applies to people I have helped – was MORE EXCUSES – and this programme’s blaming of the food companies and blinkered concentration on brain chemistry offers more excuses to people who are only too eager to accept them! It is really good that you have taken a grip as I did – we used and are using our WILLPOWER a vital element which is ignored by this ‘blame big business / brain chemistry’ dogma.

        I know Kris doesn’t like this last point so he’ll probably delete this. Another unbeliever flung from the temple.

  8. I didn’t think you were posting this to give people excuses to eat whatever they want or not to take responsibility for what they eat. I think you are trying to give us an understanding about food and helping us learn how to question what we are putting in our mouths. It is very confusing with so much information out there knowing what to eat or who to believe. Knowing how foods can affect our brains and/or our bodies can help give us power and a reason to avoid them.

  9. Andrew,

    As a die hard conservative I think you are missing the point and picking a battle in the wrong theater of action. I know all too well about the lame-stream media however, I appreciate any advice/information from Kris and as a true conservative I make my own decisions as an individual. I do not need to your political view to arrive at my own sound, educated decision.

  10. Andrew, it’s great to disagree and state your own opinion but you appear to be taking what Kris has said personally to the point where you are being rude and trying to justify your rudeness by trying to sound intelligent. I too was once heavily obese, all I did was cut out all the processed crap and ate ‘real food’ only and pretty much lost 60 pounds with NO exercise. To say that people are lazy which is why they are over weight is a general and ignorant assumption if you ask me. I totally agree with the article Kris has presented as I am a pure example of this. Rant over.

  11. Anyone who thinks food corporations are not predatory that have ‘maximising profits’ and not our health as their bottom line have had their head in the sand these past 20 years. There was a time when our health mattered but now, excepting a few, that is more. You only need to visit the EWG site to see what they are piling into our foodstuffs – known carcinogens many of them; examine Monsanto’s shameful record with their GE concoctions; many even advertised & sold as ‘healthy’. There is plenty of research & info & it will cost you a bit of time to study it, but it backs up the predatory nature of corporations. (Another suggestion, watch ‘The Corporation’ dvd; you will see that corporations are not required to consider their consumers; rather their legal mandate is to consider their shareholders’ profits first & foremost.

    • Sorry, Correction: “There was a time when our health mattered but now, excepting a few, that is more”,
      should read …. is NO more.

  12. Wow, didn’t that open a can of worms!! Personally Andrew, I think if you feel so passionately about these issues, you should perhaps start your own blog and initiate discussions regarding your ‘take on things’. I am interested in all and any insights into nutrition as a whole, and found this particular blog extremely thought-provoking.

    Yes, big business’ bottom line is profit and repeat custom, but we still have freedom of choice on our side. We can simply say no, surely? When did ‘junk’ food addiction become so bad, that we indulge in detrimental eating habits mindlessly, and without conscious choice? As an over-weight person who saw the error of her ways, and consequently lost the weight reasonably easily with a low-carb, high protein diet and regular exercise, I recognize the merit of research into sensible nutrition.

    I refuse to believe that the human race are mindless idiots who don’t have control over their nutritional decisions. And surely with television being the powerful influence that Andrew purports it to be, then it should be a positive influence in making the right decisions. There is certainly enough television exposure to both sides of the argument, so there is absolutely no excuse for not knowing that junk food is bad for you!!

    We have to be able to see both sides of an argument, and decide which opinion is the one that we are most comfortable with, whether or not others agree with our decision. There are also causes for obesity that are not often focused on, eg. thyroid conditions, and massive weight gain caused by hormone implants used for female contraception (just to name two).

    These causes may be in the minority. but still worth considering, and can be quite difficult to control. I enjoy Kris’ blog, and even though I don’t necessarily believe everything he writes, I defend his right to do so. It is my choice to read it. Say no more.

    PS If you’re interested in an enlightening insight into farming practices on a global scale, check out the documentary ‘Food Inc.’ Scary!

  13. Roger Jackson says:

    Now that was a lively exchange between andrew and Kris. It sounded like the debate between big tobacco and the anti smoking lobby and we all know how that played out eventually.

    I definitely put Andrew on the side of big business and tobacco. I am an ex smoker who was hooked at a very early age by all the images of the cool dudes who got the girls etc and the claim that smoking did you no harm!!. Wish there had been a “Kris” around then.

    The same debate is going on today only the players have changed. Substitute wheat and junk food for tobacco and the arguments sound almost the same.

    • Try actually reading what I said instead of imposing your simplistic view – an interpretation as crass as it is erroneous. I am sure that you enjoyed the video – I am sure that you enjoy and become excited by a lot of television: simple and dramatic – good versus evil; no need to think.

  14. The Pooch says:

    Kris, I wonder if you could expand in a future blog post about the science of hunger and appetite. The traditional view has been that appetite is psychological, and people who overeat are somehow lacking in character or willpower. I think many of us are coming around to a view of appetite as a physiological phenomenon (of course also with psychological components). What do we know about the physiological controls of hunger and appetite?

    • A lot of it has to do with the hormone leptin and reward seeking behavior. There are various hormones and neural circuits that are ultimately interpreted by the brain to decide whether to eat, or not to eat.

      Saying that overeating is a character flaw or a lack of willpower is nonsense. All of our behavior is controlled by hormones and neurons and it has now been well documented what drives overeating.

      There’s an article coming up about sugar today that goes into some detail about how fructose can cause a biochemical drive to eat more and override the regulatory system that is supposed to prevent us from becoming obese.

      I also recommend this excellent 6-part series by Dr. Stephan Guyenet, who is an obesity researcher and an expert on the brain’s regulation of food intake:

      Part 1: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2012/10/why-do-we-eat-neurobiological.html

  15. James Russles says:

    I would be very interested to know whether those who focused on the neuro chemistry behind over eating had a similar apologist view towards pedophiles, rapists and violent offenders.

    There’s no doubt they have some strong neurological drivers as well.

    There ought to be no doubt that differences in genetic make up will make it harder / easier for some to overcome the desire to over eat and over eat specific foods. That goes for EVERY single facet in life, but for some reason, food consumption seems to particularly encourage the “it’s not my fault, my brain chemistry and the evil corporations made me do it!”.

    Andrew is on the mark. At best, all the research does is dictate that there are neurological drivers toward certain behaviour. We aren’t animals who are slaves to our behavioural urges. We as humans have a sense of self awareness and we have the option to NOT GIVE IN to specific urges.

    I’ll never say that big food corporations are saints. They aren’t. The only care about profits and don’t give a shit about people’s health. Just like every other big business in our capitalistic society.

    Blaming them for *our* behavioural choices is beyond irresponsible and weak. I reckon you are all the type who blame the rape victim since she was “wearing a short skirt” too?

    • Excellent points James.

      It is part of the constant political / social process of the diminution of the individual. It is very attractive and comforting to be able to constantly blame ‘them’ and say we have no choice, no volition, no will.

      By removing individual responsibility we are becoming more and more passive and weak. The State in conjunction with the other powerful monolithic forces wants us to be whining weaklings – so much easier to manipulate.

  16. I agree with this article 100%. I too like evidence…I’m an epidemiologist. The evidence I have is my own personal story. I had always considered myself a “healthy eater” and most people, would agree. However, I was addicted to sugar, cakes, candy, etc etc and when I would allow myself to have it, I couldn’t get enough.

    I was in an endless battle. It made me feel miserable but I still ate it. I decided to try Paleo for that reason alone. The only reason I didn’t weigh 300 pounds was because I was very active and exercised enough to burn the calories. After a few months, I could not even stomach the thought of processed foods. If I ate them, they tasted like the poison that they are. There is no doubt that I was addicted.

    In addition, I became more in-tune to the commercials and news articles… ones that push breakfast bars and “low fat” whatever and “only 100 calories!” items all over the place, trying to pass these things off as “healthy” when you should be eating a salad instead. I think of processed food like that show “hoarders”…Your body gets a lot of good things put into it like a house.

    Things that are supposed to go in the body (natural foods) decorate it nicely inside. However, once it starts to receive junk, stuff that doesn’t belong there, stuff that is processed, it starts to pile up in the rooms and create an unhealthy environment. It’s a simple analogy but so true.

  17. KarateGirl says:

    I, too, felt some symptoms of addiction. A few years ago, I started reading about what really goes into food and I was so horrified that I made my family go cold-turkey organic. We even chopped down all the trees and started an organic farm. We eat no junk whatsoever.

    But when we first started, I couldn’t believe that I had actual cravings for McDonald’s burgers. As in, I’d salivate at the sight of a McDonald’s sign. I was shocked! I’ve never been addicted to anything, not even caffeine, and here I was drooling and aching for a junk food burger and a side of toxic soda.

    I never ate junk often – maybe about twice a month but that was enough. I felt the effects for about 4 months, and after that my body finally kicked all cravings. Now, of course, the mere thought of it makes me sick and anything that I eat that’s not organic or right out of my organic field tastes like chemical garbage. But I have no doubts whatsoever that the crap they serve is, as claimed, addictive.

  18. This has certainly been an interesting discussion! I eat a lot of good food—real food, cooked at home—but I also indulge in junk food on occasion.

    What I find most interested is what the flavor scientists and others in the industry said about it themselves. It’s easy to say we’re projecting an agenda onto them, but they themselves talk about making consumers want more and more, and one of them calls “addiction” “a good word” for the process.

    “We want a burst in the beginning, then maybe a finish that doesn’t linger too much so you want more of it.” (3:03)

    “But that suggests something else.” “Exactly.” “Which is called addiction.” “Exactly.” “You’re trying to create an addictive taste.” “It’s a good word.” (3:14)

    “It makes you want to eat this again and again and again, okay . . . you want to do it over and over again until you get a headache.” (7:15)

    “There’s no question we’re trying to create an irresistibly and a memorability.” (11:35)

    A conspiracy is “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful”. They admit that their goal is to make people want more of the product, to keep coming back; that’s sort of a “secret plan,” but is it “harmful”? Their motivation could be to ensure people choose packaged foods over food closer to its natural state, regardless of the toll on health and welfare. (Remember their claims of making it “better” than the real thing?) But it can also be as simple as wanting to make something people like, because that’s how they make money. That could be incidentally harmful, but without the intent for evil.

    What do I think? It’s probably both, to a degree that varies depending on the individual and organization.

  19. Sabrina says:

    The negative comments for this article surprise me. They come across as trolling to me because NONE of them responded with actual facts. Opinions and personal experiences can be helpful at times, but not very effective when you are trying to refute physiological facts.

    MANY Americans are ignorant (NOT stupid, there is a difference) to the effects of the ingredients found in processed food. Many more are financially UNABLE to purchase natural, healthy food because a 99 cent box of hamburger helper or mac and cheese is all they can afford. THESE are the people who need blogs like this. It is meant to educate consumers so that they can make healthier choices! He was not attacking big business or making excuses, he was informing people of practices by food companies that are dangerous and unhealthy for us as consumers.

    Yes, each person has the choice of living healthy or unhealthy, but so many people do not know how to be TRULY healthy. That is where blogs like this come in. So that when somebody tries to find info to help himself, there is more than “eat Lean Cuisines”, replace with “low fat this or low carb that”, none of which are truly healthy. TRUE health is about getting the right amount of EVERYTHING your body needs and NOT consuming foods that are purposely modified to override chemical responses in your brain!

    I am currently learning how to eat clean and avoid food with chemical and/or modified ingredients. It was SO hard at first because I did crave those terribly unhealthy foods. I still do sometimes. However, I eat them less and less. The food I now consume is mostly locally grown and produced, organic, and I can see the results of it healing my body rather than harming it.

    One last thing people should know; skinny and healthy are NOT synonymous. I know this was a look at obesity, but I just thought I’d throw that out there.

    In conclusion, I would like to say “Kudos” to this blog and others like it that are slowly helping ignorant (ignorance is only something to be ashamed of when you accept it and refuse to educate yourself) and low income consumers to say no to these unhealthy foods.

    :)

  20. I’ve had quite a few chuckles over all these responses and some great insight as well. And although I am not a fence-rider, I find myself agreeing with both Andrew and Kris. I agree with Andrew – that we as a people always seem to be blaming someone other than ourselves for the “it’s the way we are and we can’t help it” defense.

    I remember reading a t-shirt once that said, “what I’ve learned in therapy is nothing is my fault”, and other than making me laugh out loud, it also made me realize that this is the world today in which we live. No accountability for anything, not even the food we eat. There always has to be a reason why… a neurological disorder, something mental, something chemically unbalanced.

    We don’t want to step back and look at ourselves and say, “this is my fault, I did this to myself” most likely because we think we are “generally a good person”, or maybe it’s because we don’t want to lower our self-esteem even more than it already is.

    No one likes to be a failure, and no one likes to admit defeat, and although it is character building, no one ever liked hearing from their parents, “it’s good for you! It’s character building!” “Character building” has a negative connotation and words like, “quick, easy, efficient” have replaced it.

    We don’t need to be patient, it can now be quick and easy. We don’t need things to be complex, it can now be processed and easy! Which, in turn, I believe, does create and promote laziness and even apathy.

    I love the video that Kris posted mainly because it opened my eyes to these companies that take something “natural” to chemically create something “unnatural”. Does no one else see this as scary?? My first thought was, “creating flavors, tasting flavors all day long… who wouldn’t want that job?” But then I checked myself… like I need any more problems with food than I already have!

    But there the food alchemists sit, in their lab coats and their evil schemes to make sure that they create that flavor, that one thing that has America saying, “we can’t live without that!” They want their consumers addicted! They want the flavor to dissipate so that they’ll be back for more, more, more!

    They want them to be enslaved to food and to have no self control whatsoever! What evil geniuses! They remind me of Dr. Doofenshmirtz with a “flavornator” trying to conquer the tri-state area! This actually irks me and has made me decide that it is even more imperative and urgent that I buy and consume only whole, organic foods!

    Here is my dilemma however. When you live on a strict budget, how in the heck can you afford to do this? They have made whole, organic foods ridiculously priced and seem somewhat “out of reach” to the those of us who budget everything, including the allotted amount of toilet paper we use a day!

    I’m not sure whether it would be less expensive to buy organic, whole foods or sell my house, and buy a farm with organic dirt and an organic cow!

    • Steve Windsor says:

      “They have made whole, organic foods ridiculously priced and seem somewhat “out of reach” to the those of us who budget everything, including the allotted amount of toilet paper we use a day!”

      What THEY (your government) have done is subsidize the very foods that are bad for you: Corn, soybeans, Dairy… Thus making them seem inexpensive when they are actually not.

      Switch to whole foods, vegetables, fruits to start with. By simply removing processed foods you have a good start. Regardless, as “Organic” becomes more and more popular, THEY will hijack that term as well and it won’t mean what you think it means.

      And whomever that jackass above is, yes there is a THEY and yes THEY are out to get you. (i.e. short circuit your brain’s ability to resist eating more junk disguised as food) If you don’t realize that or won’t admit it, you are probably one of THEM.

      I’m no brainless, green, naturonut… However, this whole discussion about food misses the point that our use and abuse of food is usually started and perpetuated, at least initially, by other issues. Food abuse is a symptom as is alcoholism, but once you start an addiction there are plenty of “dealers” out there to help you feed it.

      • I’ve just noticed this.

        I’m not sure to whom ‘jackass’ refers – probably me or another who dares to blaspheme against the accepted dogma i.e. that we humans have no will, no individuality and are utterly passive little creatures being manipulated by evil big business; nothing is our fault – so, so comforting.

        Anyway, I’m still reeling from the incisiveness and intelligence of Steve Windsor’s polemic: ‘jackass’ how on Earth can we refute that? Brilliant.

  21. Well, IMO those who are espousing “we are free to make our own choices” should consider this… if cocaine, heroin, crack, narcotics, marijuana were all still legal – would we look down on all the people who could not stop using this stuff and chastise them for their poor decision making and lack of willpower? Anyone who knows anything about addiction and the way the brain works knows it’s got nothing to do with willpower. Great discussion!

  22. Well I agree with the dude who wrote the article. I do believe that flavors are addictive and so is caffeine, you can literally go through symptoms you would from trying to over come any other addition. Just think… there are lots of foods that taste so good that you just cant stop eating! Ex. Salt and vinegar flavored chips and soda. It’s happened to all of us!

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