Why Processed Food is Irresistible

, April 7, 2024,

Why Processed Food is Irresistible

Food manufacturers often employ various strategies to make their products appealing and potentially addictive. Here are some common practices to create products that are more palatable and craving-inducing than whole foods.

Sugar and Salt Content:

High levels of sugar and salt simply make foods taste better. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that the sugar industry influenced research to downplay the health risks of sugar consumption.


Flavor Enhancers:

Food companies use artificial and natural flavor enhancers to create a more intense taste. This includes monosodium glutamate (MSG), which can trigger cravings. The Journal of Nutrition discusses the effects of umami taste.


Texture Manipulation:

Manipulating the texture of food, such as making it crispy or creamy, can enhance the eating experience. This study explores the role of texture in food cravings.


Packaging and Presentation:

Eye-catching packaging and attractive food presentation can entice consumers. This NIH article discusses the impact of packaging design on consumer perception.

Marketing and Advertising:

Aggressive marketing campaigns, endorsements by celebrities, and misleading claims can influence consumer choices. The book “Salt Sugar Fat” by Michael Moss (2013) delves into how the food industry markets its products.

Flavor Layering:

Combining multiple flavors in a single product, like sweet and salty, can create a sensory overload. This article discusses the science of flavor layering.

Portion Size Manipulation:

Offering larger portions for a relatively small price encourages overconsumption. Research published in this NIH Article discusses the trend of increasing portion sizes.

Addictive Ingredients:

Some processed foods contain ingredients that trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This NIH Article discusses the role of dopamine in food addiction.

Hidden Ingredients:

Concealing unhealthy ingredients in the ingredient list can mislead consumers. The documentary “Fed Up” (2014) explores how food manufacturers hide added sugars in their products.

These practices, while not illegal, can contribute to overconsumption of unhealthy foods and are often criticized for contributing to public health issues such as obesity and related diseases.