Food, manipulation and our brain
Earlier this month Dr. David A. Kessler, former commissioner of the FDA, released his new book titled, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.
Dr. Kessler isn’t convinced that food makers fully understand the neuroscience of the forces they have unleashed, but food companies certainly understand human behavior, taste preferences and desire. In fact, he offers descriptions of how restaurants and food makers manipulate ingredients to reach the aptly named “bliss point.” Foods that contain too little or too much sugar, fat or salt are either bland or overwhelming. But food scientists work hard to reach the precise point at which we derive the greatest pleasure from fat, sugar and salt.
The result is that chain restaurants like Chili’s cook up “hyper-palatable food that requires little chewing and goes down easily,” he notes. And Dr. Kessler reports that the Snickers bar, for instance, is “extraordinarily well engineered.” As we chew it, the sugar dissolves, the fat melts and the caramel traps the peanuts so the entire combination of flavors is blissfully experienced in the mouth at the same time.
Recently Dr Kessler was on Fresh Air with Terry Gross talking about his seven year research journey that led to this book. Mind you, nothing new for a lot of our readers here, but still pretty sweet that a former FDA head is talking about all this.