Saturday, February 23, 2013

"The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food"

Erick EricksonA longish but fast-paced article that's worth a look, if for no other reason than to satisfy your cravings for sick fascination. Probably you already have a sense of much of what's touched on, but some of the specifics, not to mention the corporate attitudes on display, deserve to be front and center in your thoughts for a while.

The article, by Michael Moss, is adapted from his book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, which is featured on his website.

On a tangential note, visiting his site introduced me to a new button:

IndieBound may interest some of you. There's a handy independent book sellers finder page, for example.

(top pic. source)

5 comments:

TC said...

This isn't the entire book with the evidence, of course, but I'm skeptical that sugar and salt are strong enough to be labeled "addicting." People ate candy bars and drank sodas back in the 30s and 40s without anyone saying it was an obesity crisis. Some people in that generation ate no vegetables at all. If they ate a vegetable it would be a starch like potatoes. They were probably more active though, but you can't blame the lack thereof on salt or sugar.

Thanks for the info on independent booksellers. I tried it for my area and it didn't list two of them, but it did show half a dozen and you have to start somewhere. Amazon or Powells work if you know the title you're after, but if you want to just browse and read a little bit to see if you like the style of a new author you haven't heard of before, nothing beats the bricks and mortar at an Indie.

Brendan Keefe said...

... I'm skeptical that sugar and salt are strong enough to be labeled "addicting."

Depends on the definition of "addicting," of course, but I disagree. I can really only speak from personal experience, but that experience speaks volumes, at least to me. There is a very short term effect, in which I will continue to eat sweets or salty snacks way beyond what I might have planned, once I get started on them. There are also effect that occur on a daily time scale; for example, I used to eat at Burger King at lunch back in my old office job days, and I noticed that if I did that two or three days in a row, I'd have an enormous craving to continue doing it. Also, I found that if I managed not to go to BK for a few days in a row, I had no interest in going from then on, and in some cases, the aroma of the BK up the street was even mildly off-putting.

I think the article touches on a few cases where these phenomena present in populations, as well.

People ate candy bars and drank sodas back in the 30s and 40s without anyone saying it was an obesity crisis.

Probably true, but I'd wonder about two things. First, were candy bars and soda as cheap, comparatively, as they are now? Consider the disposable income of a teenager or young adult, for one. Consider also the thought that we now have entire aisles in grocery stores full of these products, often being boosted with coupons, "economy" sizes, and club pricing.

Second, consider not just candy bars and soda, but, to take an example from the article, pasta sauce in a jar. (I also immediately think of salad dressing in a bottle.) Add in the myriad of nuke 'n' serve meals. These products simply did not exist back in the '30s and '40s. Or if maybe some of them did, they were rare, and they weren't even in the same universe as the mass-produced, heavily-marketed items of today, that dominate the grocery store shelves, that are key vehicles for delivering sugar, salt, and fat.

Some people in that generation ate no vegetables at all. If they ate a vegetable it would be a starch like potatoes.

I probably agree with that, although stipulating it's true, it seems to me that it's less supportive of an argument about sugar, salt, and fat consumption than it might be on, say, how important daily vegetable requirements really are.

They were probably more active though, but you can't blame the lack thereof on salt or sugar.

Not sure what "lack thereof" refers to, but if you mean today's lower activity rates, that's probably true. Again, though, that point doesn't strike me as saying much about our current over-consumption of salt and sugar.

Thanks for the info on independent booksellers.

y/w

I tried it for my area and it didn't list two of them ...

Did you look for a way to submit additional data (the two shops you had in mind) to the site? That's how we do, these days, and I strongly support it, this notion of us all pitching in with our own two cents. If nothing else, you ought to be able to find a email address for the webmaster, or a feedback link, or something.

Amazon or Powells work if you know the title you're after, but if you want to just browse and read a little bit to see if you like the style of a new author you haven't heard of before, nothing beats the bricks and mortar at an Indie.

I don't mean to argue against indie bookshops, which I love, but I do feel compelled to point out that, at least concerning newer books, practically every book I've looked at on Amazon the past two or three years lets you read the first chapter for free, right there in your browser. (cf.) And I don't think Amazon is unique in this regard.

TC said...


>>practically every book I've looked at on Amazon the past two or three years lets you read the first chapter for free, right there in your browser. (cf.) And I don't think Amazon is unique in this regard.<<

That's true, but how do you find that author you've never heard of before, but you see the name on a book at your indie and can pull it out and browse through it to decide if you're interested. Amazon works better for newer titles than ones from 30 or 40 years ago.

Also if you were to look up From the Bauhaus to Our House and they let you read the first chapter, it would be off putting, because the first 50 pages or so are background on the Bauhaus movement before he starts cutting it to pieces with his snark.

Do you think the reason you wanted to go back to Burger King again after visiting a few times was because they put a lot of salt (or sugar) on their product? My experience is that I go there because it's convenient or cheap or quick rather than I like that they over salt their burgers, and the salt has me hooked.

Brendan Keefe said...

Of course I agree that there is no substitute for the pleasures to be had by browsing in an actual concrete bookstore. I just wanted to point out, for the record, that there is at least something that is offered in the way of sampling a book one happens across when browsing online. I don't claim it's Just As Good, but it is something, and more to my earlier point, it is yet another something that brick and mortar store owners have to acknowledge.

I also agree about the older books part. However, I maintain (as I do when people try to preach to me about the serendipity inherent in turning the pages of a print newspaper versus reading one online) that there are at least as many times that I can think of where I've happened across something I had no prior interest in, or even awareness of, due to link-hopping or "you might also like" suggestions or similar, in the online world, as I might encounter in meatspace, turning my head sideways at a shelf full of books. Stipulated: not the same. Insisting: Should be viewed as an enhancement to the quality of modern life, and not as an either-or choice.

I do, in fact, think there was something about the additives, or combination of ingredients, as you prefer, to Burger King's offerings that went beyond the rational parts of cheap and convenient. I truly did have in mind cravings.

TC said...

You may be the only person I ever met who went to Burger King or MacDonalds because you craved the food they produced. For me it was always because I needed something that was quick and cheap and had good parking so I could accept the crap food to quell the hunger pangs. But if I craved a good burger there was always someplace down the street to get a better one. Maybe you were just hungry at lunch time so that even a whopper sounded good in spite of the heavy salt and extra sweetness of their soft drinks.

I have a difficult time noticing any difference between BK's soft drinks , and any other place that serves them. Don't all restaurants have the same soda machine and buy the syrup from the same wholesaler -- even the non junk food non franchised places? I think Coke has a patent on the formula and if you serve it you have to buy their syrup or just call it cola. Can you tell that BK sodas are sweeter than other places and you go there particularly to get the sweeter sodas?



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