Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 2nd 2013 Contents B5
Saturday, November 2, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
It s no secret: When you buy
Doritos, you re going to finish the
entire bag. There are countless rea-
sons why people have so much trou-
ble putting junky snacks down.
And many of them are by design:
Companies spend billions on marketing
their products and conducting scientific
studies to figure out how to engineer
their foods to keep you eating.
Consider this: In a recently released
Connecticut College study, neuroscience
students found that eating oreos acti-
vated more neurons in the pleasure cen-
ters of rats brains than did consuming
cocaine or morphine.
And New York Times writer and
author of Sugar, Fat, Salt, Michael Moss
recently wrote about ten components
added to Doritos that make them
extremely tasty and difficult to resist.
Unsurprisingly, salt and sugar were major
ingredients. In fact, the salty additives
in Doritos give them a "flavour burst."
That "burst" dissolves in your saliva,
sending signals to the pleasure centres
of your brain, explained Moss.
Do these foods sound "addicting" to
you? Marion Nestle, professor of nutri-
tion, food studies and public health at
New York University, and author of many
books on nutrition, says there should
be a distinction between having a strong
desire for food and being addicted to it.
"I think of the word as meaning a
physical dependence. We physically
depend on food in general, but never on
one food in particular," Nestle tells Huff-
Post. "Food companies create food prod-
ucts that people want to eat. Is wanting
the same as addiction? I don t think so
but there s evidence that foods trigger
the same neurological pleasure centres
as do addictive drugs, alcohol, and cig-
arettes, but not nearly to the same
Many starchy foods contain complex
carbs that your body breaks down into
simple sugars. A study conducted on
mice in 2012 found that foods high in
carbs, fats and sugar can actually change
the brain. The researchers at the Uni-
versity of Montreal discovered that after
being exposed to diets with high levels
of fat and sugar, mice revealed with-
drawal symptoms of depression and a
greater sensitivity to stressful situations.
They also had higher levels of the
Creb molecule, which is known to play
a role in dopamine production.
Much of this is still emerging science,
and it s impossible to say that eating
lots of sugar will necessarily make anyone
feel happier, but humans are naturally
drawn to sugary high-carb foods.
"We evolved to love the taste of sugars
as an infant survival mechanism," says
Nestle. "The brain needs sugar to func-
tion and carbohydrates are the most
efficient source of it."
How fast can you eat a bag of Chee-
tos? Probably pretty quickly. That s
because the manufacturers of the puffed
corn product have mastered the art of
"vanishing caloric density." The Cheeto
is extremely light and fluffy, therefore
making it easy to rapidly melt in your
mouth. Moss discovered that this junk
food ploy tricks your brain into thinking
you re not eating as many calories, so
"you just keep eating it forever."
Now, of course, that s not the only
reason why you love these tasty foods,
but their vibrant colouring has been
known to play a part. Food companies
add colour to their products to make
them more appealing. Dr Linda M Katz,
Chief Medical Officer for the FDA s Cen-
ter for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition,
reports that colour additives are incor-
porated into foods to "enhance colours
that occur naturally" and to "provide
colour to colourless and fun foods"
(like popsicles and soda). "That s what
food companies do to sell foods," says
Nestle. "That s their business. People
don t like eating grey foods."
When we think of satisfying snack
foods, tomato sauce isn t really on the
list. But that doesn t mean it s free of
the additives that make more typical
junk foods more appealing. If you look
at the ingredients list on a can of Prego
tomato sauce, for example, the second
ingredient after tomatoes is sugar, one
of the three addictive components of
fast food, according to Moss. The New
York Times reports that just a half-cup
of Prego traditional sauce has about two
tablespoons of sugar. That s the same
amount of sugar as in two large Oreos.
Nestle says the added sugar in canned
tomato sauces "makes them taste better
and covers up the off metallic taste from
the canning process."
But before you head to the kitchen to
make your own, note that sugar can be
found in canned tomatoes---a common
ingredient in homemade sauce---in the
form of high-fructose corn syrup. If
you re craving tomato sauce, you re better
off avoiding any kind of tomato product
that comes in a can.
There are a bunch of reasons why
you can t resist munching on your kid s
Halloween candy loot, but you can blame
part of it on evolution. In an article on
Prevention.com, Ashley Gearhardt, PhD,
assistant professor in the psychology
department at the University of Michi-
gan, explained that the human body has
not yet evolved to handle the intense
trio of sugar, fat and salt that comes in
candy bars. Gearheardt wrote that before
processed food was developed, sugar
was "found in fruit and guarded by
stinging bees; salt was a simple garnish;
and fat was a nutrient that had to be
hunted or foraged." The tastes taken
together are still very new to the human
body. The Nutrition Source revealed in
a guide titled How Sweet Is It? that
cranberry juice cocktail, orange soda and
cola all have much more than 12 grams
of sugar in a 12 ounce serving, with some
packing upwards of 40 grams of sugar,
which is the same as about ten teaspoons
of sugar. That s a lot of sugar. As with
many of the items above, high sugar
content plays a key part in making pop-
ular foods and drinks so hard to put
But why so much sugar? Dr Robert
Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at
University of California, San Francisco
has a theory that he outlines in his viral
YouTube lecture, Sugar: The Bitter Truth:
"So why do I call it the Coca-Cola con-
spiracy? Well, what s in Coke? Caffeine,
good, good. So what s caffeine? It s a
mild stimulant, right? It s also a diuretic.
It makes you pee free water.
"What else is in Coke? We ll get to
the sugar in a minute. What else? Salt,
55 milligrams of sodium per can, it s like
drinking a pizza. So what happens if
you take on sodium and lose free water,
you get? Thirstier, right. So why is there
so much sugar in Coke? To hide the
Why are you addicted to food?
You love fries and potato chips
because they have the perfect
mix of salt and fat. And they're
According to Michael Moss, the
coating of fat and salt on potato
chips and french fries is what
makes them so irresistible. Moss
writes in his New York Times
piece, "The starch in the potato
causes the same glucose spike
as sugar, but is absorbed into the
bloodstream much more quickly."
That spike will drop very fast,
causing you to reach for another
fry or chip.
You love soda, juices and
sports drinks because they are
sweet, sugar powerhouses.
Kelly Brownell, director of
Yale's Rudd Center for Food
Policy & Obesity, claims that
sodas and sports drinks are the
"single greatest source of added
sugar in the American diet, and
the research linking sugar-
sweetened beverage intake with
obesity and diabetes is stronger
than for any other food or
beverage category. The average
American consumes 50 gallons
of sugar-sweetened beverages
The salty additives in Doritos give them a "flavour burst" which stimulates
the pleasure centres of the brain.
The sugar in cola drinks is highly "addictive" and many people claim to be
Coke or Pepsi addicts.
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