The Science of Addictive Food



well if you've ever found yourself saying I just couldn't help myself when you wait too much of the wrong food you just might be right a lot of people put a lot of work into making sure we keep on eating as our health reporter Kelly Crowe discovered it's a highly competitive highly secretive industry with one goal food that is simply irresistible they're trying to increase their share of your stomach and increase the amount of profit they're making off the food you eat I point that it hurt to move and I would just lie my bed in wish I was dead these companies rely on deep science and pure science to understand how we're attracted to food and how they can make their foods attractive to us there's science behind that crunch yogurt feels that way in your mouth for a reason the food industry is even researching the connection between the taste receptors on your tongue and the corresponding chemical reaction in your brain the result carefully engineered combinations of salt sugar fat and chemicals deliberately designed so you can't eat just one Michael Moss spent four years investigating the science behind processed food I was totally surprised I spent time at the top scientists at the largest companies in this country and it's amazing how much math and science and regression analysis and energy they put into finding the very perfect amount of salt sugar and fat in their products that'll send us over the moon a search through a database of scientific papers and food industry patents reveals the extent of the science behind food engineering chemistry physics biology all commandeered into the surface of making profitable food here's a process for enhancing the cheese flavor without the cheese we're starting materials our proteins and fats which means the amount of expensive cheese can be reduced substantially and if they can replicate that chemical reaction that may happen on your tongue or an aroma they can simulate the taste of something without it being at all real Bruce Bradley knows firsthand what goes on inside the food industry a former executive at several large food companies he's now a writer and industry critic there were certainly times that I felt uncomfortable or troubled by what I was doing and I think that's ultimately you know one of the reasons why I left the industry and then you see trends like obesity and health issues that are increasing mainly driven by the food that we eat it was hard for me not to just take a more thorough assessment of what I was doing the food industry is extremely secret competitive and proprietary it took years and hundreds of interviews before Michael Moss could finish his book this was like a detective story for me getting inside the companies with thousands of pages of inside documents and getting there scientists and executives to reveal to me the secrets of how they go at this what did he find that the food processing industry rests on three pillars salt sugar and fat these are the Holy Trinity of processed foods and again when they hit the perfect amounts they call it the Bliss point for sugar the mouthfeel for fat the flavor burst for salt they know that their products will be irresistible salt sugar and fat in combinations nature never intended and increasingly scientist agree there is evidence that these highly palatable foods can be addictive yeah well for me I'll be spooning or reaching or whatever and I'll be thinking I've got to stop I've got to stop I've got to stop and my you know I just I just don't stop her name is Pat and she's a food addict I was desperate when I was a food addict it was really really devastating and I felt powerless and ashamed it was horrible her kitchen is a battleground every meal a challenge to remember that for her even a taste of sugar can set her back seeing food will trigger it advertising for table trigger it these foods are so so addictive so appealing free cookie is crammed with joy when are many food addicts who say that even long after the food stopped causing us joy long after it started causing us misery we still couldn't stop come on one of those chips just one so it becomes hardwired and it's very hard to overcome bet you can't eat just one and while the industry hates the word addiction more than any other word the fact of the matter is that their research has shown them that when they hit the very perfect amounts of each of those ingredients they'll send us over the moon their products will fly off the shelf we'll eat more we'll buy more and as they are companies they will make more money activating those limbic structures francis magloan is a neuroscientist Brian's sister as part of a BBC program he put a British chef into a brain imaging machine and fed him chilli every 38 seconds actually had a drop of chilli or squirted on his tongue and watched as the heat from the Chili Peppers triggered a release of feel-good chemicals in the brain the consequence of that that low level of pain is that it floods the brain with its own natural opiates Francis McGlone was a pioneer one of the first neuroscientists to work in the food industry he spent 10 years doing neuroscience for Unilever one of the world's largest food companies as a basic neuroscientist I was able to look at the mechanisms that basically drove preference for various types of food using neuroscience Unilever made headlines with this finding ice cream tickles the brain just one spoonful lights up the happy zones of the brain in clinical trials the company reported this is the other part of the body that fascinates food scientists the mouth the way food breaks between the teeth the pressure of the bite force the sound of the crunch it's partly it's the noise and the noise of course amplified by the fact that your jaw bone is connected to your ears and you really hear that that crunch quite loudly as you bite but it's also the physical requirement to chew on something and to crunch it just distracts you it pulls your mind on to what you're eating Chris Lucas is a food industry consultant who helps companies come up with foods that are what he calls moreish in other words make you want more they want to at the end of each product to reach for the next one and put it in again and they often achieve that by having a very intense taste it right at the front of the mouth and then it dies off very quickly and so by the time you finished each mouthful you're looking to refine that taste which you've lost the shape of the food is also important chocolate should not have sharp edges absolutely we're looking for chocolate to be comforting to be a really pleasant lovely experience in the mouth melt is a very soft soft experience and if it's got sharp corners yours really spoiling that and actually setting the consumer on edge slightly before they get the melt food scientists know what it takes to trigger the brain to stop eating they call it sensory specific satiety and that's an expression that says when foods have one overriding flavor if it's attractive it'll be really attractive to us initially but then we'll get tired of it really fast and so these companies make a concerted effort to make their foods not bland but really we'll blended and why can't you stop at just one it's called vanishing caloric density vanishing caloric density applies to those things like Cheetos that melt in your mouth and what happens is then that your brain gets fooled into thinking the calories have vanished and you're much more apt to keep eating before the brain sends you a signal hey you've had enough welcome to the sensory sciences lab at the University of Guelph Rory come here for a minute this is teaching the students how to set up a sensory test so all the students in this class are learning the basics of conducting sensor evaluation research because it's not as it's not as simple as eating a food there are different in n ingredients and what we're looking for is to determine which one is preferred or accepted by people so in this case it's actually a different sodium levels so which one did you like better I like the second one better consult do you want this healthier one yeah because these products must be able to sit on the shelves for months many of the ingredients have nothing to do with taste but act as preservatives and chemicals to control the appearance and texture and a series of ingredients known as flavor enhancers to trick the brain into tasting something that isn't there there's tremendous amounts of money spent behind creating tastes and smells that feel real but in reality are completely artificial because without flavor enhancement no one would eat it it would taste horrible you would just you know you'd want to spit it out one food company made a special batch of crackers from Michael Moss to taste without any salt at all it was a god-awful experienced Heaston those things normally I can eat cheez-its all day long but the cheez-its without the salt I couldn't even swallow them they stuck to the roof of my mouth a tour of the grocery aisle reveals that something is changing suddenly cookies boast health claims chips have full brain and fiber if the food industry can find a way to market it and make money off of it I'm sure they will but if it long-term is decreasing the amount of food that they can sell I don't see it as being an avenue that they'll go down so whether lower in salt sugar or fat higher in fiber and grains containing real fruit or baked with real vegetables you will be back for more the food industry depends on it Kelly Crowe CBC News Toronto

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