Some of your favorite foods might be engineered to keep you returning for more. New research suggests when major food manufacturers were owned by big tobacco, they flooded the market with dozens of so-called hyper-palatable foods (HPF)—those with the precise amounts of fat, salt, and sugar that cause people to overeat them.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas, concluded that between 1988 and 2001, tobacco-owned U.S. food companies produced more highly-palatable foods than those not owned by tobacco giants. The findings, published in the journal Addiction, suggest the tobacco industry was the driving force behind the rise of hyper-palatable foods today.
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Similar to how people crave tobacco products, people can crave hyper-palatable foods.
“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 addiction, told The Washington Post. “We treat these foods like they come from nature. Instead, they’re foods that come from big tobacco,” said Gearhardt, who was not involved with the study.
While the tobacco giants no longer have the same dominance in food production, the authors point to their lingering influence on the American diet.