Salt Sugar Fat
Like for many people, Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation was my first introduction into what the book called the "dark side of the food-industrial complex". That book primarily focused on the ...
Like for many people, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation was my first introduction into what the book called the “dark side of the food-industrial complex”. That book primarily focused on the problems related to producing and distributing food on an industrial scale. Michael Moss’ Salt Sugar Fat is a fascinating exploration of not how our processed food gets made, but how it gets designed. If that seems like a strange word to use when applied to food, I assure you it is not. After reading Salt Sugar Fat it is obvious that processed food is as carefully designed as any other commercial product.
Moss goes into great detail in describing how in food labs across the world, scientists work hard to create the most addictive snacks, cereals, and other processed foods money can buy. They use terms like “bliss point” to describe the perfect amount of sugar, fat, and salt a food needs to make people the happiest. And the happier you are eating something, the more of it you eat (see Stephan Guyenet’s The Hungry Brain for a detailed overview). This industrial-scale exploitation of our brains’ evolutionary tendencies to keep our bodies alive by eating more is genuinely frightening.
Also scary is the tremendous amount of obstructionism the food industry engaged in (and continues to engage) when it comes to public food policy. Over the last 75 years, processed food companies have spent billions of dollars on watering down healthy-eating guidelines, funding pro-salt, sugar, and fat research, and lobbying elected officials. Many of these tactics were lifted straight from the tobacco industry’s fight to undo the slowly gathering anti-tobacco sentiment in the 1960s and 70s. This isn’t particularly surprising when you consider that when the tobacco giants sensed their only product was on the way out, they began purchasing processed food companies. Most noticeably, Philip Morris’ giant purchase of both General Mills and Kraft gave the tobacco company 10 cents of every dollar spent on groceries in the United States.
Salt Sugar Fat is an essential read to anyone trying to understand our eating habits and the current obesity epidemic sweeping the world. It’s become one of my most recommended and quoted from books. As a personal trainer, I make it essential reading to any new clients who struggle with weight loss. It is extremely helpful to understand why your brain makes you want to eat more than your body requires and how processed foods trick the brain into caloric excess. As Moss says in the Epilogue, “this book is intended as a wake-up call to the issues and tactics at play in the food industry, to the fact that we are not helpless in facing them down (italics mine). We have choices, and understanding these choices is the single best thing a consumer can do to live a healthier, longer life. Highly recommended.