By Michael Moss
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
Reviewed by Ken Condliff
If you like to read mysteries, and great “who done it” stories, you will love the new book by Michael Moss. It reads like a research thriller, taking the reader through a nutritional crime scene. While some mysteries have unwilling victims – other victims are induced into the crime without knowing it.
In Salt Sugar Fat, Michael Moss exposes Big Food Inc’s success in getting the public addicted to unhealthy ingredients, and how the industry is built to deliver maximum food addiction and minimum nutrition. In the end, we all pay the ransom for eating unhealthy foods based on the addictive properties of salt, fat and sugar.
The book opens at the crime scene, in the spring of 1999, when the heads of the largest food companies came together to hear a unique presentation about the epidemic of obesity, and how unhealthy food ingredients were contributing to the cause. The presentation, which was well researched, factually based and well-presented was shot-down immediately by an executive from General Mills. Not one attendee spoke in favor of Big Food Inc’s role in helping fight obesity. Since then, the food industry has added more salt, sugar and fat to their most popular, mass- marketed foods. Not surprisingly, our food-based obesity has continued to worsen.
The book continues to chronicle the use of salt, sugar and fat in foods by Big Food Inc. in detail. The use of added sugars is so pervasive that almost all processed foods contain added sugars. Most all beverages also contain added sugars or sweeteners. Added sugars are intended to get the consumer to the ‘bliss point’, which induces cravings and hijack the brain into thinking ‘more is better’. Excess sugars contribute to body fat, overweight and obesity in our sedentary life styles.
The use of fats in processed foods gives the consumer a sense of smooth ‘mouthfeel’ and satiation. Fat also helps stimulate taste buds and prolongs the taste buds’ ability to convey flavor messages to the brain. In MRI brain scans performed by Big Food Inc. research scientists, subjects were fed various forms of fats and sugars. Based on observing the MRI brain images, the food scientists could optimize their fat and sugar ratios in processed foods – to better excite the brain and induce cravings.
The use of salts in foods to amplify food flavors has a long history. With the invention of processed foods going back to 1950’s, the mass production of prepared and boxed foods greatly increased the amount of salt in our diets. In the 1980’s, we started to experience increased incidences of high blood pressure, which leads to congestive heart failure. It’s no coincidence that three quarters of our salt intake come from processed foods. It’s not only a cheap food ingredient, but it’s also addictive, which has been confirmed by brain MRI scans.
In the final chapter of Salt Sugar Fat, titled ‘I Feel So Sorry for the Public’, the author summarizes his interviews with food scientists who helped fuel these unhealthy ingredients loaded into processed foods. Most stated remorse for the results of their research, generally well-intended scientific work, which was abused by Big Food Inc. for increased market share and profits. I highly recommend this book, and research, for anyone in the food business (including those who eat food!) . It’s particularly valuable to know “what NOT to do”, in order to make our food chain more healthy.
Ken Condliff is the founder and self proclaimed CNO (Chief Nutty Officer) of Nut-tritious Foods located in Vancouver, WA
For more information about Nut-tritious Foods http://www.nut-tritiousfoods.com