I recently read an article in Women’s Fitness (issue 76, June 2010) about why people overeat. There were shocking statements in the article that got me thinking – should food manufacturers be held responsible (at least in part) for the obesity epidemic in the western world?
The article states that foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt have similar addictive qualities as drugs. They cause the body to release a feel-good chemical called dopamine which we then crave and if we deprive ourselves of these foods, it only makes the craving worse.
It seems that food manufacturers are well aware of this and are specifically making foods with high levels of fat, sugar and salt so that we crave more, eat more and buy more to line their own pockets. The article quotes a medicinal cook, Dale Pinnock, as saying “The food technologist behind Pringles actually admitted his objective was to get the right ratio of salt and fat to trigger the dopamine release [...] This gives extra significance to the jingle ‘once you pop, you can’t stop’, as you actually can’t!”
It’s understandable that food manufacturers want to make their food taste good so that we buy more, but are they being irresponsible by taking it this far?
There is a big part of me that believes we are all in control of what we eat and we all know that foods like Pringles are bad for us. We therefore have the power to say no to these foods, but why should we? We may have the power to make a decision about what we eat, but are we able to make an informed decision?
I think that’s the key here. We are not always informed about what’s in the food we eat. Yes, we can read the long list of ingredients on the back of the packet, but for a lot of us it’s a foreign language and it’s not clear what effects the ingredients will have on our bodies.
Food labelling has come a long way in the last few years, with clearer guidelines and the traffic light system, helping people to choose foods that are better for them, but maybe that’s not enough. We have huge health warnings on packets of cigarettes telling us that smoking kills, but illnesses associated with being overweight and obese are massive killers and yet there’s no warning on packets of crisps.
I know you may think that it’s common sense – crisps are bad and everyone knows that – but people still smoke and take up smoking. Maybe health warnings aren’t the answer, but surely food manufacturers are partly to blame and should contribute to the massive bill that the health service has to pick up to treat people suffering from heart disease, type II diabetes and other illnesses brought on by bad diet.
Stick of celery, anyone??