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Thursday, 2 July 2009

Junk Food Conspiracy

David Kessler, the former head of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has warned that food manufacturers have employed food scientists to successfully develop snacks, cereals and ready made meals that act on the "reward centres of the brain" in the same way as tobacco. Kessler argues that "we have created a world where food is designed to make you want to eat more of it.... for millions of people, modern food is simply impossible to resist."

Kessler takes the example of sugar in food: "As more sugar is added, food becomes more pleasurable until we reach the bliss point, after which it becomes too sweet and the pleasure drops off." The same also happens with fat and salt. At this point the desire for that food is suppressed. However, this can be overcome by creating the right combination of ingredients.

In his book, The End of Overeating" Kessler provides evidence that food scientists, are using precise combinations of fat, sugar, salt and additives to make certain foods addictive. This is described as "excessive activation". What happens is that these foods trigger the release of neurotransmitters in the brain's pleasure centres. Research at Yale University showed that over 50% of obese people are prone to "excessive activation".

I live close to a shopping parade. Over the last few years shops have struggled to survive on this parade. The main problem is that there are not enough local people willing to use these shops. Recently, KFC opened a shop on the parade. It does not matter what time of day that I pass this shop, there is a long queue of very large people getting their fix of KFC. It is like a scene from "The Twilight Zone".

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