It seems that lately, there is a lot of buzz about how fat, salt, and sugar are addictive substances and accusations that the food industry purposely manipulates our food with these substances so that they "make ya crave it fortnightly". [Name that movie!]
Just some thoughts on that. I worked for one of the biggest food companies in the US for several years, mostly in nutrition but also in product development.
At that company, there was no secret cocktail of fat, salt, and sugar that we would whip out to make food addictive. There was no one in upper management calling down to R&D saying, "Add the addiction trifecta asap!" Food scientists aren't milling around thinking, "Now how can I get just a little more salt in here without the public knowing?"
And if it is true at other companies, how could all these people keep that kind of a secret? There are tens of thousands of food scientists working in the industry...somebody would leak something like this if it were true. These folks don't make a lot of money...it wouldn't be very hard to pay them off to get such information.
But I bet if you ask a food scientist if they are purposely impregnating food with an "addiction trifecta", they would tell you this: the goal of product development at a processed food company is to make a food that people will like so much, they buy it again...and depending on the food itself, using fat, salt, or sugar is appropriate to make that food taste good (plus these ingredients are cheap and most Americans want cheap food...more on that another time). So really, the best way to stop the food industry from selling foods with these ingredients is to stop buying them.
Now what if people can't stop buying them because they are addictive? That's a loaded question with so many ramifications. Using my best Dr. Dork scientific skills, I have to conclude that the evidence in humans is weak right now. Seems like there may be something there in rats, for whatever that is worth. But there are not enough studies in humans to really conclude that fat, salt, and sugar are truly addictive substances. Sure, there are several very serious conditions where people have unhealthy relationships with food...but are they "addictions"? And if scientists do eventually prove that fat, salt, and sugar are addictive substances, then what? Will chocolate chip cookies be outlawed? Will you have to buy salt like you buy Sudafed and sign that weird book? Will fast food companies see the light and start selling grass-fed beef burgers on stone-ground, whole wheat bread? Will people shell out $9 for that kind of lunch?
If you want to read more about this stuff, check out David Kessler's book. It's certainly a provocative read!
And not that you asked, but one of my favorite movie lines of all time: "that boy's head is like Sputnik; spherical but quite pointy at parts!"