“Betcha can’t eat just one!” was more than just a 1960s slogan for potato chips.
It was part of a concerted effort to engineer junk food loaded with fat, carbohydrates and sodium in combinations that are irresistible to people because they trigger our brains’ reward system, according to a new study published in the journal Addiction.
And these habit-forming foods were created by the same companies that brought us addictive cigarettes.
The new research reveals that, after the government moved to regulate the tobacco industry in the 1960s, tobacco companies responded by investing heavily in food manufacturing to hook new customers.
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The success of these hyperpalatable products is rooted in the science behind addiction, according to researchers.
They contain ingredients — some natural, some synthetic — that have been purified, concentrated and are rapidly absorbed into our blood streams, amplifying their ability to light up our brains’ reward centers.
“Every addictive substance is something that we take from nature and we alter it, process it and refine it in a way that makes it more rewarding — and that is very clearly what happened with these hyper-palatable food substances,” Ashley Gearhardt, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who studies food addiction, told the Washington Post.
“We treat these foods like they come from nature. Instead, they’re foods that come from big tobacco.”