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Wed Feb 20, 2013, 01:53 PM

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

On the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and discharged 11 men who controlled America’s largest food companies. Nestlé was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the C.E.O.’s and company presidents had come together for a rare, private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial, the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by their skill in fighting one another for what they called “stomach share” — the amount of digestive space that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition.

James Behnke, a 55-year-old executive at Pillsbury, greeted the men as they arrived. He was anxious but also hopeful about the plan that he and a few other food-company executives had devised to engage the C.E.O.’s on America’s growing weight problem. “We were very concerned, and rightfully so, that obesity was becoming a major issue,” Behnke recalled. “People were starting to talk about sugar taxes, and there was a lot of pressure on food companies.” Getting the company chiefs in the same room to talk about anything, much less a sensitive issue like this, was a tricky business, so Behnke and his fellow organizers had scripted the meeting carefully, honing the message to its barest essentials. “C.E.O.’s in the food industry are typically not technical guys, and they’re uncomfortable going to meetings where technical people talk in technical terms about technical things,” Behnke said. “They don’t want to be embarrassed. They don’t want to make commitments. They want to maintain their aloofness and autonomy.”

A chemist by training with a doctoral degree in food science, Behnke became Pillsbury’s chief technical officer in 1979 and was instrumental in creating a long line of hit products, including microwaveable popcorn. He deeply admired Pillsbury but in recent years had grown troubled by pictures of obese children suffering from diabetes and the earliest signs of hypertension and heart disease. In the months leading up to the C.E.O. meeting, he was engaged in conversation with a group of food-science experts who were painting an increasingly grim picture of the public’s ability to cope with the industry’s formulations — from the body’s fragile controls on overeating to the hidden power of some processed foods to make people feel hungrier still. It was time, he and a handful of others felt, to warn the C.E.O.’s that their companies may have gone too far in creating and marketing products that posed the greatest health concerns.

<snip> (and boy did I snip a lot)

The meeting was remarkable, first, for the insider admissions of guilt. But I was also struck by how prescient the organizers of the sit-down had been. Today, one in three adults is considered clinically obese, along with one in five kids, and 24 million Americans are afflicted by type 2 diabetes, often caused by poor diet, with another 79 million people having pre-diabetes. Even gout, a painful form of arthritis once known as “the rich man’s disease” for its associations with gluttony, now afflicts eight million Americans.

<snip>

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

This is a very long and amazing article. It's a real resource for anyone interested in food, nutrition, corporate malfeasance, and much more.

23 replies, 1917 views

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Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
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Arrow 23 replies Author Time Post
Reply The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food (Original post)
cali Feb 2013 OP
elleng Feb 2013 #1
Stuart G Feb 2013 #2
redqueen Feb 2013 #3
OceanEcosystem Feb 2013 #4
cali Feb 2013 #5
redqueen Feb 2013 #7
OceanEcosystem Feb 2013 #10
Blue_Tires Feb 2013 #6
KittyWampus Feb 2013 #8
CoffeeCat Feb 2013 #15
closeupready Feb 2013 #17
Still Sensible Feb 2013 #9
Liberal_in_LA Feb 2013 #11
riderinthestorm Feb 2013 #12
davidn3600 Feb 2013 #13
Auggie Feb 2013 #14
DollarBillHines Feb 2013 #16
Blue_In_AK Feb 2013 #18
ThomThom Feb 2013 #22
geardaddy Feb 2013 #19
eggplant Feb 2013 #20
reformist2 Feb 2013 #21
KurtNYC Feb 2013 #23

Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:00 PM

1. Ditto, cali.

Posted in Health.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/11427406

Let's let them both stand.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:00 PM

2. Proof of the addictive quality of food.....K and R..nt

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:17 PM

3. K&R

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Response to redqueen (Reply #3)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:24 PM

4. What does "K&R" mean?

 

"Kick and recommend?"

Just curious; I see "K&R" a lot.

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Response to OceanEcosystem (Reply #4)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:25 PM

5. kick and recommend

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Response to OceanEcosystem (Reply #4)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:28 PM

7. I see your Q has already been A'd.

So I'll just say welcome to DU!

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Response to redqueen (Reply #7)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:29 PM

10. Thank you!!

 

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:26 PM

6. kick for truth...

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:28 PM

8. What is says about CEO's in general> they're uncomfortable saying "I don't know, please inform me">

Good leaders are able to comfortably say "I don't know" and seek out the information they need.

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Response to KittyWampus (Reply #8)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 03:32 PM

15. Most of today's CEO's...

...are greedy, charming, blow-dried workaholics who are probably narcissists and sociopaths.

They don't want to learn. They want to sit at the top, enrich themselves, serve their masters
on Wall Street, bribe our politicians and exploit their workers.

Very few CEOs are true leaders with imagination and wisdom. Most are charismatic narcissists
who lack any sort of empathy for anyone beyond the executive suite.

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Response to CoffeeCat (Reply #15)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 03:54 PM

17. PBS recently did an American Experience on Henry Ford.

He was super-wealthy, but - as the narrator said - he hated bankers and Wall Street and most of those who would have been his socioeconomic peers of the time. He would get apoplectic about his son's huge mansion and the wild parties and drinking and such. Ford also apparently published an anti-semitic circular that was later discontinued.

Yet, when he died, thousands of Americans went to his memorial to pay their respects.

It's interesting that he was, in turn, hated by his peers because he decided to raise worker pay in order to reduce factory turnover. He hated unions, but that was apparently more about the threat to his control of his company, and he was a control freak.

So anyway, seems to me that if Henry Ford lived today, he'd still be aghast at lots of what goes on in corporate America today.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:28 PM

9. Well worth the read

It seems to me that if food makers could develop a salt substitute that is very low in sodium content, but retains the spectrum of properties of salt, they would be way ahead... obviously easier said than done as evidenced by the salt substitutes currently on the market.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:38 PM

11. thanks. saving for later reading

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 03:15 PM

12. Bookmarking for a later read. 1st browse of it looks terrific, thanks Cali. K&R nt

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 03:22 PM

13. The human body is naturally attracted to high calorie foods

It's based on survival. For much of human history, the body struggled to find enough food. Now all of a sudden we are flooded with high calorie foods. And the body wants it because it wants to store it thinking we are going to have to someday survive a period of famine.

This isnt rocket science.

The problem is that we dont ever reach that period of famine. And therefore the body doesn't know what to do with all these calories now other than to just keep storing what it doesn't need. Our evolutionary ancestors never had to deal with obesity. So our genetics are not designed to deal with that problem. And that's why our bodies are struggling to figure it out.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 03:30 PM

14. Lunchables at noon, Happy Meals at night ...

As I posted in Health, this article focuses on packaged goods. Add fast food to the equation and it's a bigger horror story.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 03:37 PM

16. Thanks, cali

This should be required reading.

K&R fer danged sure.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 04:03 PM

18. I saw maybe a 60 Minutes expose of this a while back.

The food industry chemists are very busy coming up with chemical additives that make their worthless food absolutely irresistable. I avoid junk food to the same degree that I avoid heroin.

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Response to Blue_In_AK (Reply #18)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 05:37 PM

22. these people should be K&R

kicked and remanded
Who is the drugs pusher now?

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 04:28 PM

19. Thanks for posting.

Bookmarking for later.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 05:30 PM

20. Excellent read. n/t

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Response to cali (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 05:36 PM

21. It's actually not complicated or mysterious - it's MSG. Put it in food, and people can't stop eating


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Response to cali (Original post)

Thu Feb 21, 2013, 09:42 AM

23. Read it all. I suspect that this stops short of where the food corps are now.

They have decades of data that the public sector is barely catching up with. Studies of diet sodas show that they can increase your appetite and thwart your satiation mechanisms.

The salt and sugar are easy to understand but satiation and cravings are more complex. Calories devoid of certain nutrients will leave your body craving those nutrients. In other words one can eat 3000 calories and still be hungry for B vitamins.

One small counter point: If more consumers were demanding nutritious food then these mega corporations would develop shelf-stable, convenient, slickly packaged, ready-to-eat nutritious food and sell it to them (in addition to all the other stuff).

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