The Food Industry’s Three Point Compass: Sugar, Fat and Salt

Thursday, July 29, 2010 by Raena Morgan
The End of Overeating – Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite” is a scathing exposé of the commercial food industry researched and written by Dr. David Kessler, the former head of the FDA. This is the same gentleman that went after the tobacco industry and who sought, and managed to get, nutrition labels on the food we purchase in supermarkets and elsewhere.

Concerned about America’s obesity epidemic, Kessler began to take an investigative look at “Big Food,” as he calls it. He found insiders who gave him the information he was looking for, but who, of course, insisted on remaining anonymous. It is a chilling and almost sinister account of how this form of “big business” operates. An example from one insider explains how the food industry deliberately creates meals, snacks and appetizers to hit the “three points of the compass”—sugar, fat and salt, layered over more sugar, fat and salt—often several times, thus instilling those foods with an irresistible “hedonic” effect.

According to Kessler, Americans spend “50 percent of today’s food dollar” on eating out, and therefore restaurants go to great lengths to provide tantalizing, pleasure foods to lure consumers in, continuously introducing new foods that fit the three point compass. Another consultant who spoke with Kessler said, quite frankly, that the food industry is “the manipulator of the consumer’s minds and desires.”

Many examples of this layering are given. A simple one: “cheese fries.” The potato is a carbohydrate that turns to sugar when digested and then when it is fried and covered in cheese you get sugar + fat+ salt. All combinations of sugar and fat, like cookies and pastries and ice cream, create what is referred to as a “bliss point.” Fat and salt combinations, like chips, as well as sugar, fat and salt combinations, like pizza, are highly reinforcing foods. Furthermore, the food is also processed and prepared in such a manner that we have to chew it less and it can easily be swallowed in huge portions in a single sitting.

The long and the short of it is that these foods thrill the taste buds, which then has an impact on our brain cells, rewiring them to seek the rewards of consuming such foods. Not only are high sugar, fatty and salty foods stimulating, the research also reveals that they do, in fact, have an emotional impact that relieves pain and stress. This in turn leads to what Kessler calls conditioned hypereating. It’s a very complicated neural circuitry that is involved, but it is thoroughly explained in “The End of Overeating,” so that people can understand why these foods are so highly addictive.

Some sound and practical suggestions and strategies for disengaging from this kind of eating are given in Part Five: “Food Rehab,” however, dieting, per se, is not one of them. Strict dieting (including natural health diets and cleansing and detoxification programs) can cause a rebound effect that often leads to over consuming the very pleasure foods that the brain and emotions have been denied. What we must realize, he says, is that, “Conditioned hypereating is a biological challenge, not a character flaw.” In his view, “Recovery is impossible until we stop viewing overeating as an absence of willpower.”  In the mean time, Kessler is pushing for nutrition labeling to be implemented on restaurant menus, and recommends that well-funded public education campaigns address the food industry’s unrelenting marketing of superstimulants!

Find Dr. Kessler's book at Amazon.com and read the reviews.

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