When we consider the field of engineering, the images that come to mind run the gamut from airplanes to bridges to 3D printers. Yet we rarely think about how the processed food we consume has been designed with the same amount of attention and detail as any piece of cutting edge technology. New York Times reporter and author Michael Moss has written a book called Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us detailing how industry titans have affected the collective American waistline. Linking their conscious development of addicting junk food to disease, he delves into how our eating habits are affected by big business and their role in the obesity epidemic.
According to Moss’ research, one in three adults in this country is clinically obese, with one in five children also overweight. Twenty-four million Americans are affected by type 2 diabetes, and seventy-nine million are pre-diabetic. Even gout, once associated with a rich diet that only the wealthiest gluttons would contract, now affects eight million people in the US.
For his book, Moss spoke to over 300 people involved in the food industry, ranging from scientists and marketers to heads of companies. What he found was how incredibly vulnerable consumers are to the selling campaigns and formulations of big brands. He presents several case studies in his excerpt for his recent article in the New York Times Magazine that explain how most of what we crave is built around “the bliss point”. Huge amounts of effort are poured into finding what eaters crave the most, and the results are exploited to make these products addictive. Scientists, food engineers, and focus groups have as much to do with affected the American diet as television shows, and the article is a fascinating look into how we make choices about what we put into our bodies and how they have been affected by powerful interests.
Photo via Wikicommons user Fae