Food Companies Are Making Their Products Addictive, and It's Sickening (Literally)
By Melissa Kravitz
Can't stop eating that bag of chips until you're licking the salt nestled in the corners of the empty package from your fingers? You're not alone. And it's not entirely your fault that the intended final handful of chips was not, indeed, your last for that snacking session. Many common snack foods have been expertly engineered to keep us addicted, almost constantly craving more of whatever falsely satisfying manufactured treat is in front of us.
"Humans have an inherited preference for energy-rich foods — like fats and sugars — and thus natural selection has predisposed us to foods high in sugar and fat," explains Jennifer Kaplan, instructor of the course Introduction to Food Systems at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California. "Food scientists know this and create ingredients that are far higher in fat and sugar than occur in nature. The most common such sugar is high-fructose corn syrup and is therefore intrinsically addictive." In fact, foods that didn't used to be sweet, like pasta sauce, are now artificially sweetened to keep consumers craving the product, with sugar levels that can rival those found in packaged desserts.
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is found in everything from ketchup and salad dressing to cereal and breads — foods that aren't necessarily perceived as sweet — and sometimes even in "healthier" alternatives, like light beer. Anheuser-Busch, the St. Louis-based brewer of Bud Light, highlighted the popular beer's lack of HFCS during a controversial Super Bowl commercial. The ad, which tried to push Bud Light as the more desirable light beer because of its lack of corn syrup (as opposed to its competitors), notably annoyed the brewery's neighboring midwestern corn farmers, who are subsidized by the U.S. government to essentially keep pumping our processed foods with corn products.
So what's so bad about HFCS, the ubiquitous ingredient so essential to the inner aisles of the American supermarket? A tablespoon of the super sweet stuff packs in roughly 53 calories, 14.4 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of sugar, while an entire ear of corn has about 123 calories. It's much easier to ingest extra, empty calories when they're processed down to a sugary additive, which enhances the flavor of processed foods.
As an ingredient, HFCS was shown in a 2013 study to be as addictive as drugs, like cocaine or heroin, with salt proven to have similarly addictive, opioid-like qualities. Australian neuroscientist Craig Smith has studied the effect of salt cravings in humans for years, concluding that eating excessive amounts of sodium makes people crave salt more, and those who eat less junk food can benefit from lower salt cravings and therefore fewer of the negative effects associated with too much salt consumption.
Even if a food isn't overly salty, salt may sneak into packaged food more rampantly than expected. "In most cases, salt is used as a preservative to give food extended shelf life and keep food safe," explains Nia Rennix, a clinical nutritionist who specializes in weight loss and blood sugar regulation. Salt can also be used to enhance a food's color (such as making the crust of bread a more appealing golden brown), as well as a flavor enhancer in foods you may not associate with saltiness, like ketchup or breads.
You may not be tasting the salt in your mall pretzel or packaged condiments, but salt as an ingredient is keeping you hooked. "Salt is extremely addictive, just as much as sugar. The more you consume salt, the more you crave it, and manufacturers realize this," says Rennix. "They continue to add salt to foods because they want you to continue to purchase [their products]. It doesn't matter if the salt is white, pink, sea salt or crystallized — it all has the same effect on one's body." Packaging may lead you to think that certain salts are healthier, but, truly they are all the singular thing that is bad in excess: Salt.
Beyond overeating in general, eating too much salt is proven to have negative effects on human health. "Eating too much salt is not good for your health, because the extra water that you hold on to raises your blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure," Rennix explains. "All of this can put a strain on your heart, kidneys, brain and arteries, which could lead to a stroke, heart attack or kidney disease." And yet, Americans remain casually addicted to the stuff.
While addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin are illegal, the U.S. currently has no regulations on the amounts of sugar, sweeteners and salt that can be added to foods widely available in grocery stores — a fact that underlies the looming public health crises of obesity and related illnesses. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 93.3 million Americans, roughly 40 percent, are affected by obesity, a condition closely associated with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and premature death. And even armed with this knowledge, many Americans are regularly lured in by food that is designed to be hard to resist.
"Making items highly palatable is just the beginning," explains chef and registered dietitian Jessica Swift, who holds an MSc in nutritional sciences. "Pumping food full of sugar to the person with the sweet tooth is what junk food companies strive for. Having that sugar could release dopamine, the feel-good hormone in the brain, which associates that food with pleasure — causing the body to crave more."
That feel-good sensation will keep you hooked on certain foods, which will bring instant comfort when consumed. "Wanting to repeat that pleasure is natural, and this can lead to over-consumption of said food," says Swift.
Self-soothing with food is a common, easy and often cheap tactic for a quick fix, but seeking that comfort can even be less obvious, especially when you're not necessarily feeling down. For example, smelling a dish outside a restaurant or at a supermarket can evoke pleasant memories that awaken cravings. "Absolutely, smelling a warm apple pie could remind you of grandma's Sunday dinners. Gingerbread could remind you of holidays with the family. [Scent can play a part in] ... the emotional attachment to food," says Swift. Associating food with pleasure keeps humans addicted even further to the foods engineered with excessive sugar, salt and fat to keep you craving more. Think of sniffing Cinnabon at the mall, a scent that has been proven to entice customers toward consuming previously unwanted calories and sugars.
While food addiction is often used colloquially, the Yale Food Addiction Scale has been developed as a measure to determine people's level of substance dependence. Still, even if not clinically diagnosed, humans can be unhealthily hooked on junk food. So how do we stop it?
"Choose moderation for foods that you think could be highly addictive for you," Swift recommends. "Make sure you are consuming a well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids." When grocery shopping for items to stock your pantry with, read nutrition labels and avoid foods with high sodium and sugar content. "Do not keep these foods within arm's reach," Swift says. "Typically, when you have to put in an effort to get an item, you are less likely to consume it." At least in this case, laziness can help your health.
8 Detox #Salad Recipes to Kick-Start Healthy Eating https://t.co/CeHLq0uV7c @Healthline @naturallysavvy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1550016017.0
Melissa Kravitz is a writing fellow at Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Environmental officials and members of the U.S. Coast Guard are racing to clean up a mysterious oil spill that has spread to 11 miles of Delaware coastline.
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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Plain Naturals is making waves in the CBD space with a new product line for retail customers looking for high potency CBD products at industry-low prices.
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Towards the end of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season, the moderator asked both candidates how they would address both the climate crisis and job growth, leading to a nearly 12-minute discussion where Donald Trump did not acknowledge that the climate is changing and Joe Biden called the climate crisis an existential threat.
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By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.