How Food Scientists Engineer the “Bliss Point” in Junk Food

Allison Guy
February 26th 2013

Over at the New York Times, a recent article exposes the clever and surprisingly immoral ways the food industry manufactures foods to rival hard drugs for their addictive potential. Well worth the read, the article discusses "designer sodium", the genesis of the ideal kid's lunch, and the search for the morphine-like "bliss point" in soda. One scientist's description of Cheetos, in particular, highlighted the extraordinary detail that goes into what we see as a normal, familiar food:

“This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever.”

Nearly all widely available foods, from Cutie clementines to the dozens of Pringles flavors, have been exquisitely manufactured to appeal to our primal need for salt, fat and sugar, and for our just-as-ancient yearning to get the most calories for the least amount of labor. We're all hungry and lazy. Anyone looking to introduce new and untested food – in-vitro meat, for instance – would do well to remember that food science has already perfected the art of hooking consumers on whatever they care to feed us.

Photo via Flickr user Bunches and Bits.

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