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You Are What You're Tricked Into Eating 499

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Two prominent nutrition experts have put forth the theory that the current obesity epidemic is, in large part, the result of processed foods tricking our appetite control mechanisms. They argue that evolution has given humans a delicately balanced system that balances appetite with metabolic needs, and that processed foods trick that system by making foods high in fats and carbohydrates have the gustatory qualities of proteins. As the researchers put it, 'Many people eat far too much fat and carbohydrate in their attempt to consume enough protein.'"
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You Are What You're Tricked Into Eating

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  • Not possible. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @03:24AM (#46865839)

    Our diet contains more meat than any other point in history, even before factoring in the abundance of nuts and beans.
    While much fast or junk food is low in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, our protein intake is far from deficient.

    Humans are anything but carefully balanced, besides. Living organisms are very adaptable and self-correcting - if they weren't, we'd all be long dead.

    • I agree, no one should claim that our diet is deficient in protein. But the idea that increasing the proportion of protein in our diet might help with appetite regulation does not sound outlandish.
    • Re:Not possible. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @09:19AM (#46867187)

      Our diet contains more meat than any other point in history, even before factoring in the abundance of nuts and beans.
      While much fast or junk food is low in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, our protein intake is far from deficient.

      While this may be true, it may also be irrelevant to the claims here. Contrary to popular belief, high protein foods (including meat, but also beans and legumes) are generally low in calories when they are lean. (And, in prehistoric, pre-agriculture diets, chances are any meat that was eaten would have been fairly lean, not have been off of a farm-fattened animal with "superior marbling" to attain a "prime" rating.)

      However, from TFA:

      Food manufacturers have a financial incentive to replace protein with cheaper forms of calories, and to manipulate the sensory qualities of foods to disguise their lower protein content. This leads to savoury-flavoured food that makes us think we're eating protein when in reality it is loaded with carbohydrates and fats.

      So, say I eat a dish that "tastes like protein" and my taste receptors think that a savory dish that tastes like that should usually have a couple hundred calories.

      But, instead, that dish is NOT protein at all, and is loaded with fats and processed carbs, which gives it a calorie content of over 1000 calories. I'm getting a signal from my body telling me it's okay to eat more (according to taste), even when I'm consuming way too many calories. Moreover, as we eat it, our body might be ready to digest the protein it assumes it there, but when it doesn't arrive, perhaps another impulse might kick in to continue eating to receive that expected protein?

      Thus, it may not be a lack of protein overall, but a mismatch in our digestive system and hunger impulses getting confused when we intake food that our bodies think should contain protein, but doesn't.

      Humans are anything but carefully balanced, besides. Living organisms are very adaptable and self-correcting - if they weren't, we'd all be long dead.

      While this is certainly true, TFA seems to be about our bodies getting the wrong chemical signals from foods that don't (and probably can't) occur in natural raw plant and animal sources. If we've evolved while always consuming foods with certain characteristics, but now we're eating foods that have very different characteristics that confuse our systems, those "balancing" elements may not react correctly.

      Again from TFA:

      It is clear that the balance of nutrients -- especially protein, fat and carbohydrate -- has profound effects on many critical physiological functions, including appetite, energy intake, obesity, cardiometabolic health, ageing, immunity and the microbial ecology of the gut.

      Processed carbs flood our bodies with sugars, whereas prehistoric carbs would have had less concentrated sugars and which would have required much longer digestion (and a HUGE intake to get anywhere near modern levels). If a human body is flooded with stuff that metabolizes in odd ways, perhaps it causes people to crave things that would regulate it and be digested more slowly (e.g., proteins)... which could drive us to eat "savory" things. But unfortunately, the "low fat" craze may then drive us to seek out "savory" by eating more carbs that have a "fake protein" taste, which again confuses our bodies, and the cycle continues.

      Perhaps. I don't really know what's going on. But the argument from TFA is not impossible on its face.

    • Re:Not possible. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @11:09AM (#46868273)
      Have you ever traveled to a Third World country with a group of Westerners? My experience is that your group will likely be a full head taller and noticeably more muscular than the the locals. Yes, our diet is better than people in the past had available to them, that doesn't make it wrong.
      • by jfengel ( 409917 )

        It also doesn't mean it can't be better. We're seeing metabolic diseases at younger ages; we're able to keep people alive longer but they're not healthy. Life expectancy is even starting to drop []; not dramatically, but there's reason to think we can do better.

        Too little food is definitely bad, and leads to malnutrition. But we're getting people who are malnourished because they have too much food, and of the wrong kind. It's not that hard to do better, but people need to pay attention.

  • Mantra (Score:4, Informative)

    by clard11 ( 468002 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @03:41AM (#46865887) Homepage

    "Eat Food. Mainly Plants. Not too much"

    • Plants are an important part of a healthy diet, but they tend to lack in the protein and fat intake we need. Yes, we need fat to live. You can live without carbs for many months, but if you don't eat any fat, you're dead within three months. Even vitamins usually can be abstained from for longer periods of time without you dying. Carbs mess up our blood sugar and are proven to be one of the main contributors to the amount of diabetes type 2 we have today, as well as the enormous amount of obese people ( htt []

      • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @05:49AM (#46866201)
        Almost everything you said there is wrong. Broccoli has more protein per calorie than steak does [], and there are plenty of plants with tons of fat. In fact, healthier fats (mono and poly unsaturated) mostly all come from plants. Try some nuts or an avocado if you don't think you're getting enough fat. This is exceedingly unlikely though, since you don't really need much fat to get by. The recommended minimum is 15% of your calories, but it's not like you're going to die within three months if you don't eat any fat - this guy [] didn't consume any calories at all, including fat, for 382 days with no ill-effects.

        Your statements about carbs are a little difficult to deal with, "one of the main contributors" is a hard statement to disprove. Really, type 2 diabetes is (mostly) caused by obesity and certainly you can get fat by eating carbs. But you can get fat by eating too much of anything. It's how much you eat (calories), not how you eat it [], that determines how much weight you loose. Fad diets, like a low carb diet, do work, but they work by restricting your calories, not by some special voodoo.
  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @03:56AM (#46865933)
    1. If there's food, eat it.

    That's it. Humans with exactly this strategy were most likely to survive the periods of hunger that were very much normal until a few decades ago.

    Of course, this strategy fails completely if food is always available and hunger periods never occur. Constant availability of food is a relatively new phenomenon, too new for humans to have adapted to it.

    • Actually, humans have done a good job of surviving famine and other food stresses by adopting long term storage strategies. It's fundamental to agriculture -- usually your crop is not producing 365 days of the year. Humans unable to ration and protion themselves would be less likely to survive because food availability is rather variable. We're not just eating machines. And there are plenty of places historical and contemporary places with high food aviailability and no significant obesity problem. Comp

      • And there are plenty of places... with high food availability and no significant obesity problem. Compare America to Japan.

        We get that comparison a lot. I am certainly not suggesting there isn't more to it than this, but maybe the average Nippon metabolism is higher than that of an American's.

        There are people who can eat anything they want without gaining weight, and others who struggle on diets their entire lives.

        Many survivors of the Irish potato famine emigrated to America with their slower than average metabolisms, lest we forget skinny folks who require greater caloric energy are not typically selected for in nature.

    • Fortunately, evolution has also given some humans the following:
      - A functioning brain.

  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @05:04AM (#46866079)

    ... food companies have scientists working 24/7 to hack human tastebuds for profit.

    Much of this problem simply comes down to the fact that bad food is engineered to taste better than natural food we found in our environment over evolutionary history. The problem is our bodies aren't designed to deal with this new food environment and hence obesity. The environment that kids are raised in by clueless over stressed parents and shitty school environments doesn't help either.

    Last but not least, human beings are not free. Probably one of the biggest myths that go along with the myth of responsibility.

    Sam harris on free will []

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      I always loose weight when I am living in Japan, and it's because the amount of delicious "proper" food that is available at reasonable prices is incredible. Where in the UK you might find a single McShit or KFC, perhaps with a Starbucks if you are lucky, in Japan there is always a good selection of more traditional, healthy stuff.

      There are more subtle differences too. Most restaurants give you free water, with a jug on the table so you can top up yourself or a very attentive waiter to do it. As such most p

  • by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @05:10AM (#46866087)

    Also known as Banting.

    The LCHF Paleo Primal Banting community, the people who have been reading Taubes' review of the literature going back pre-war, and so on, and who have tried this stuff for themselves, the basic insight is that it is the carbohydrates that are the problem.

    The grain growers wanted to mass produce and sell the stuff, and some politicians liked a "heart healthy" message (despite scientists protesting that more research was needed before jumping to conclusions) and so the whole "heart healthy" movement was born, which emphasised high carb foods like cereals, by demonising fat.

    Well after some decades, and people trying it for themselves, people are now realising that it was pretty much completely wrong. And manufacturers, because fatless food tastes of cardboard, knew they had to increase the sugar content to make up for the lack of taste. Low fat yoghurts loaded with sugar. Healthy smoothies, loaded with sugar.

    The carbs create cravings, signal the body to store fat, and overwork your insulin production until it breaks.

    But dietary fat? Good natural fats are good for you. They are good for the guts, the heart, and the brain. Well, you can read books and various docs on this, and try it for yourself. See if their claims seem to work out. It isn't a short term diet, it is a lifestyle.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      From what I've read, high carb diets, specifically those high in sugar, suppress the leptin response, keeping you feeling hungry, eating more carbs that get turned to body fat instead of being consumed.

      Reducing/eliminating carbs helps with the leptin response by causing you to not be hungry and less interested in food.

      My experience was that it worked exactly like this,

    • The grain growers wanted to mass produce and sell the stuff, and some politicians liked a "heart healthy" message (despite scientists protesting that more research was needed before jumping to conclusions) and so the whole "heart healthy" movement was born, which emphasised high carb foods like cereals, by demonising fat.

      It would be better for the grain growers if you ate animals that were fed grain, as this process is less energy efficient. This is a lousy conspiracy theory.

  • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @05:27AM (#46866153)

    This has been found out over and over again, but the food industry will always lobby against anything which would reduce their market. They even lobby against labels. In the EU, there was an initiative which wanted to color code the amount of fat, sugar, salt and other carbohydrates with (green = low, yellow = medium, and red = high) together with numerical values. It was stopped after massive lobbying. So now these labels are all white or black, require reading, and the values are distorted in different ways.

    So this is an uphill battle. What helps, is buying at a local market instead of a supermarket. And do not watch TV adverts.

    • These labels are colour coded in the UK, with both a numerical value and a percentage of your Guideline Daily Amount (Or Recommended Daily Intake, whatever is the current popular phrase). I've no idea what the criteria are for the labels, though; I've seen some which just didn't make sense (5% of salt intake, red label? I'm not going to eat 20 bags of this a day!)
      • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

        They show that the stuff you bought have, for example, a high salt concentration. Naturally, you would not eat so much of the stuff that it would be harmful. However, this might not be so clear for other product or for other people. Anyway, the label alerts you to the fact that this food has a high salt concentration.

        BTW: Many people have a distorted relationship to food. They eat two bags of potato chips together with 2 liter of coke during a TV session. The idea is to inform them more drastically that the

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @06:18AM (#46866267)

    That's basically the deal here: It's way cheaper to squeeze out kibble made of carbs and fat rather than creating something that contains protein. Protein can be found in animal based food (fish, meat, eggs, cheese) or a few vegetables (mainly certain nuts and pulse). And neither of them is easy or cheap to cultivate in large quantity.

    It is, though, fairly cheap to produce fat, especially since we found out how to turn dirt cheap crap fat into shortening. And carbohydrates are a staple for pretty much any culture in existence anyway, and we managed to perfect its production.

    Fat and carbs, carbs and fat. We excel at producing them and we can do it for cents per ton. Ain't that easy for protein. So processed food will contain as much fat and carbohydrates and as little protein as we can get away with.

    But our bodies are not fooled that easily. They know what stuff should be in our diet, and if you don't eat what you're "supposed" to eat, you'll stay hungry. Now the vicious cycle starts because we're hungry, so we eat. The wrong crap again, so we stay hungry.

    A solution is probably only possible if we simply forgo processed food and actually start cooking and eating sensibly again. But, and this is the next problem, can we still afford that? You, me, we probably can. We have money to "waste" on internet access, obviously. But how about people who're not as well off? Can they?

  • Bread and Circuses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @06:23AM (#46866289)

    The problem is that we metabolize bread just as fast as sucrose. Even Coca Cola gives less of a 'sugar rush' than bread (because Coke contains fructose).

    So, if you are big, fat and lazy, just stop eating wheat, potatoes and rice products and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the result. This is otherwise known as the Caveman diet, Paleo diet, Atkins diet, High Protein diet, or any number of other names. It works and there is no need to buy and read a book about it, though it won't hurt if you do.

  • So when I eat a fatty steak, I enjoy it because it's processed food?
  • I eat fast food regularly, I never eat whole wheat, I live at a desk. I'm 5'9", weight 145 pounds and can bench press 175, not great but acceptable. Maybe I have a better metabolism that most everyone else or I just eat when I need to and no more.
  • Processed foods, fat and carbs are bad for me? What a revelation!

  • Cigarettes... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:33AM (#46866505)

    ....used to be made with paper and tobacco leaf. That's it. That is how it was grown and manufactured for hundreds of years.

    Today's cigarette contains hundreds of ingredients. And they sure as hell weren't added as flavor enhancers.

    Anyone "tricked" over the concept of addictive chemicals being added to fast food that make you want to crave more of their product is rather ignorant of the world we live in, and the greed and corruption that built it.

  • by transporter_ii ( 986545 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @07:51AM (#46866565) Homepage

    Yes. If we have been tricked, it is that we think we need so much protein. Meat consumption in the rest of the world is a luxury, and if you look at the places that eat less meat, they have way less chronic metabolic diseases than we do. I'm not saying they have no disease, I'm saying they have less.

    We have also been tricked into thinking that carbs are bad...when in fact, lots of places in the world eat carbs all their life and are still healthier than we are. The difference is that there carbs are way less processed.

    We have been tricked into thinking that soy is good for us, when the way they eat soy in the rest of the world is way different than the highly processed soy crap that we eat here.

    We have been tricked into thinking that milk is good for us, when in fact it is not (but may help if you have a really crappy diet).

    Yes, we have been tricked, all right! If you want to live, take a world map and throw a dart at it. Anywhere it lands outside of the US, adopt their diet. You will live longer and healthier than we do here in the US.

  • ....but it's clear to me, having been born in 1967, that the 'obesity epidemic' largely coincided with the obsession to eliminate fat from our lives.

    In particular, for Americans who eat a significant amount of meals outside the home, when restaurants were compelled (I don't know if it had the force of law, or just lots of government pressure) to abandon animal fats in cooking in favor of the hydrogenated vegetable oils. That's where I really personally remember thinking "wow, was everyone really this fat b

  • The obesity problem is best understood not as the result of the overconsumption of a single macronutrient, but from a skewing of the proportion of each macronutrient in our diet - notably the dwindling quantity of protein in processed food products. The paucity of protein relative to fats and carbohydrates in processed foods drives the overconsumption of total energy as our bodies seek to maintain a target level of protein intake.

    Reminds me of' Sable / Famine's pre-apocalyptic fast food business in 'Good Omens':

    "Two years of Newtrition investment and research had produced CHOW(TM). CHOW(TM) contained spun, plaited, and woven protein molecules, capped and coded, carefully designed to be ignored by even the most ravenous digestive tract enzymes; no-cal sweeteners; mineral oils replacing vegetable oils; fibrous materials, colorings, and flavorings. The end result was a foodstuff almost indistinguishable from any other except for two th

  • by thoth ( 7907 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @09:24AM (#46867249) Journal

    There is an excellent book about this: []

    The modern processed food industry, OK the American processed food industry, works hard to make processed foods appetizing by tweaking formulations and experimenting with salt/sugar/fat ratios.

    I think the book does a balanced job of presenting the info without blaming the industry (too much). They do make the point the food industry targets convenience and cost, which consumers respond to. It isn't all the food companies fault that their customer base is kinda lazy.

    The food industry has tried a few times to make their stuff healthier by reducing additive amounts, trying new tech - one very interesting thing for example is trying to use a different salt crystal, one ground into a different shape that absorbs quicker. It gives the same "pop" with less, due to its different shape. That's pretty cool!

Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.