Hyperpalatable Foods: Science or Science Fiction? Part 5

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Last time, we looked at how junk food, fast food, and snack food, more accurately known as pseudo-food, all have the common origin point of being specifically designed to create an unhealthy dependency. Some call it food addiction, and its reason for being is to create a demand for itself, no matter how basically useless and even destructive it may be.

The technology devoted to manipulating the tastebuds and nervous system of the consumer is frightening. In Overweight: What Kids Say, there is evidence that kids have noticed this, as shown by the quoted comments from the Weigh2Rock website. Not to pick on Starbucks, but it would be hard to ignore the 12-year-old girl (highest weight: 200 pounds; weight when the post was written: 185 pounds) who confided,

[…] eh i wanna lose weight but i have a problem i drink starbucks everyday.. im adicted

A 14-year-old girl wrote,

it’s just to hard to watch what you eat since the food today tastes so good. well that;s my opion

A 16-year-old girl wrote,

[…] i have the worst addiction to strawberry icecream. God i hate that junk food tastes good!!!

And kids are not the only susceptible category of humans. The foods that grownups find hard to control may be different from kids’ problem foods, but the results are exactly the same.

Terese Weinstein Katz is a clinical psychologist who practices general psychotherapy and specializes in diet-related issues. Her approach is eclectic:

I assume that weight solutions differ from person to person, but the goal remains the same: to find ways of eating that support health and peace of mind. Toward this end, I call on a broad range of skills and knowledge, using cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness, and insight-oriented pathways as befits each person’s need.

Katz has been writing about food addiction for quite some time. She says,

[…] Once you’ve gotten used to foods ‘engineered to be hyperpalatable,’ you will want more and more of them. Some of us experience a drive for them that’s as strong as an addict’s for a drug. This includes most junk foods and fast foods, many canned or packaged supermarket foods, and chain restaurant food.

But the food technology poured into the product itself is only the beginning. It seems like everybody is in the manipulation business. Squadrons of spin doctors work tirelessly to manipulate the minds of consumers via the media. Research has been done in an attempt to measure the effects of advertising on children. Much depends on whose statistics are consulted, the age range of the study, and on the definition of abusive twisting of young minds, as opposed to the claims of free speech.

The American public has begun to realize that marketing to children has crossed the line of acceptable behavior, many times over. By appealing to such base emotions as a child’s willingness to exploit parental guilt, junk food becomes not only physically addictive but psychologically addictive.

Operating on the assumption that peer pressure is the strongest force to mold children’s minds, the advertising industry has played the “All your friends are doing it” song in heavy rotation since advertising was invented. Another variation is, “All the cool people are doing it, so if you do it, you can be friends with them.”

The socially insecure want to eat chocolate-covered bacon puffs for breakfast because it puts them in the in-crowd, or they hope it will. The socially dominant want to eat chocolate-covered bacon puffs for breakfast because it visibly demonstrates that they are indeed the cool people, at least in their own minds. The promise of either potential or continuing social acceptance is a strong persuader, but the bogosity of advertising can be neutralized by awareness.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “If Self-Control’s a Muscle, Why Can’t I Exercise It?,” Eat Sanely
Image by Nick J. Webb, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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