Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pseudoscience And Food!!!!

Jamie Oliver (Naked Chef) has a new show on Sunday (March 26 at 9pm ET on ABC). Sadly this is going to put a dent in a great tradition of pseudoscience in the food labs. You might not think there is pseudoscience in the lab at McDonalds,The Cheesecake Factory, or just about any food manufacturer. I was unaware too, so let us start on a little journey.

I started learning about the great tradition of pseudoscience by reading The End of Over Eating, by David Kessler. It seems that if you look at modern food, from Cheetos to... well the Cheesecake Factory. The book very carefully explains how the combination of sugar, salt, and fat cause our brains (and the well fed brains of experimental rats) are hypnotized into overeating.

Where is the Pseudoscience? I can hear you asking, "They are using rats, that is real science!" Yes, they have science, but they are leaving something out of the equation and that is why food science is usually pseudoscience  - especially when practiced by a food company. The little thing they leave out is the full equation in the cause and effect department.

If you make food really really good, people will eat a lot of food. This is because these scientific frankensteins of salt, sugar, and fat are cheap, and available in quantity. Nobody at the drive up window says you can't order two burgers and supersize the Coke and fries. Simply our brain treats the food like a light weight cocaine causes us to then gain weight.

Here is a great Boys Book experiment: Try to resist a good bowl of m&m's. There is a reward when you get the fatty sugar rolling around your mouth. Feel and hear that goodness packaged in that healthy celery stalk like crunch. Better yet, though branding, you know every m&m tastes like an m&m and has that same reward. You are going to be rewarding before you ever pick one up and when you do, reward! Why not reward yourself with another m&m for being a very perceptive bipedal mammal! Record how many you eat, despite feeling something has hypnotized you.

You should try this experiment with Cheetos or any other snack food, candy, frozen pizza, fast food, etc. Even juice boxes, fresh squeezed, boxed for your convenience, orange juice. Even fruit, if it is the right ripeness and sugar content, or dipped in dark chocolate (white chocolate to add a bit more fat).

The key parameter of this experiment is to put about ten servings in front of you and see how long and how hard it is to not eat it all in one sitting despite your propensity to look and sound like Jaba the Hut.

Back to the pseudoscience before we go. Remember that I said they were leaving out the fact  we will consume such food until we can cram no more in our mouths? Well that is just a part of the non science. You see the other missing info is that thing called nutrition. I also said fat, sugar, and salt. Where is the sugar coming from? When you eat a big mac, where is the sugar? Fries are covered in salt and fat right, not sugar? White Castle isn't sugar coated mini buns of goodness with syrup, right?

Wrong, these are all full of sugar in the form of starch in the bread or potatoes or 'gasp' rice. In fact simple carbohydrates hit your blood stream faster than table sugar! Pick up a simple blood glucose meeter and give it a try. Great fun to watch your blood sugar swing, especially if you are overweight and edging toward diabetes.

So watch Jamie Oliver's show, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution". He will teach a lot about the missing science that makes up pseudoscience. Read the book, The End of Overeating too.