Thursday, May 28, 2009

Our taste buds, food addictions and food engineers

The following is my post of earlier today on, a website for recumbent cyclists. I was offering my opinion on the subject of whether heavy endurance exercise will keep us healthy. Within this thread, some of us got into a debate about whether or not our exercise will keep us healthy even if our diets are not that healthy. One of the posters offered that it is hard to give up unhealthy food because it tastes soooo good. Here is my response:

The food industries all over the world have become adept at maximizing their profits by hyper-flavor enhancing processed and refined food so that we literally become addicted to these enhanced flavors. See The End of Overeating, by David Kessler, M.D., the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Kessler and many other respected scientists, from around the world, have documented how the food engineers at food manufacturers and restaurant chains, such as Kraft Foods, Chilis, Olive Garden, and McDonalds, use flavor enhancement techniques using chemicals and by laying fat upon salt upon sugar to keep bringing us back for more. And, increasing their profits. And the food tastes sooooo good! We get addicted to these foods/flavors, and worse, our kids and grand-kids get addicted, which is why childhood obesity is now an epidemic.

My son, home from college last week, popped a Hungry Man frozen dinner in the microwave. I looked at the label and the dinner has 1700 mgs. of salt! Americans eat an average of 5-7,000 mg of salt per day. Too much salt is clearly linked to hypertension, which is linked to heart disease and stroke. I am working on my son, thus far unsuccessfully.

In fact, the food engineers target our children as a hug market segment for peddling their chemically engineered and very unhealthy food products.

I realize I am an extreme outlier with regards to eating, but I have discovered that once I gave up meat/dairy, and most processed and refined foods and ordered VERY carefully in restaurants (becoming a pain in the ass to waiters) my taste buds gradually re-adapted to enjoying the simple flavors of natural whole foods. Frankly, it is like detoxing from alcohol or giving up smoking. Before the food engineers took over our cuisine, humans really enjoyed simple foods produced by nature.

You might think my using the term detoxing is extreme. But, eating food high in fat, salt, processed sugar and chemicals from the food engineers (including those found in most factory-raised meat) is, from a health perspective, analogous to smoking. In fact, it is worse. More people die in the U.S. of heart disease and vascular diseases than die of smoking relating illnesses like lung cancer. Most heart disease is 100% preventable with a very healthy diet. See Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D.'s website.

Exercise does protect us from disease and weight gain, to some extent, even if we eat a marginal or unhealthy diet. But it is far from optimal and what if we have to give up exercise for an extended period (like when I broke my hip last year). I think our goal should be to look upon heavy exercise as one of life's pleasures, but not depend upon it solely to keep us healthy. Everyone has the choice of eating healthy. Not everyone wishes to, or is able to, exercise like we do.

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