Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss.

Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth About Sugar, by Robert Lustig, M.D.

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, by Dr. William Davis, MD. 

 

What do these excellent books have in common? They are all expose’s of how the food industry deliberately manufactures our foods so that they are compelling, seductive, and addictive – in order that we eat more and more and more. The more we eat, the higher the profit.  And the sicker we get. 

 These books are all worth the read; they present a trilogy that complements each other and by the time you have finished the complete set, I guarantee that you will be motivated to change your eating habits for the better. My experience was this: the good science convinced me and the anger that I got for being drawn into eating foods that make me sick – just for someone else’s profit – got me really motivated. 

 Food is the new tobacco – and these books give the science, health policy and business politics to show how this is so. You will understand Big Food from the micro cellular level to societal level. 

 

Salt Sugar Fat

Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss.

This is an expose about the food industry itself: how foods are actually processed, manufactured and then marketed to an unsuspecting public. Moss interviews food industry ‘insiders’ from  food technologists, dieticians, marketing executives, package designers, and lobbyists who explain how processed foods are made; then he interviews external (as well as internal) scientists who clarify why such foods, that are so clearly unhealthy for us,  are also so compelling and addictive.

 

The food industry tries to find

 

 the “bliss point” of each junk food – the perfect mix / amount of salt, sugar fat, for each food item in order to create “heavy users” (otherwise known as food addicts) of us. One quote that illustrates that Big Food knows just how addictive food is: “Sugar is the Methamphetamine of processed food ingredients” and “Fat is the Opiate, a smooth operator”. 

Fat ChanceFat Chance: The Bitter Truth About Sugar, by Robert Lustig. 

 While this book also presents an expose of the food industry, its scope enlarges to include food policy at the political level. What are the large societal, political and economic trends that have joined to create our current obesity crisis, this pediatric endocrinologist asks? 

 As a doctor who specializes in obese children, Dr. Lustig tells, from the front lines of his clinical work about the effect of soda pop, pizza school lunches, and breakfast cereals. These foods (and other processed foods) have created an obesity crisis, especially in the young, with the attendant problems of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. They have also created a generation of tired, lethargy but hyperactive children who are driven to eat more just to feel better. This is not poor will power or “gluttony and sloth” but a hormonal system that has become deregulated due to the processed foods we have given our young. 

 Lustig zeros in on the main “bad guy” who is creating this crisis: Fructose (especially high fructose corn syrup which is in almost every processed food) drives our insulin to make body fat out of most carbohydrate and even the proteins that we eat. Fat does not make fat, carbohydrates do, especially fructose.  

 Lustig promotes a diet that can be either low fat or high fat, but the key a tenant of healthy weight and health is a moderate amount of fibrous carbohydrates with NO sugar, especially fructose. But Lustig’s book is more than an education primer on the hormonal determinants (such as insulin, lepton) of weight control and good health. He also calls for public policy changes that extend beyond encouraging consumers to cut down on their food intake and increase their exercise. How about making changes to food industry subsidies, or taxing junk foods? 

Wheat BellyWheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, by Dr. William Davis. 

 

Although, Davis acknowledges the addictive nature of foods, particularly wheat (and using the glycemic index) and sugar, this book is primarily focused on the health consequences of wheat. Who knew that the modern genetically modified version of the wheat we eat today has been changed significantly from the healthier versions our grandparents ate prior to the 1950s? 

 The current  hybridized dwarf wheat that we eat has created an endemic wheat sensitivity (the extreme end of which we call gluten sensitivity) that has resulted in digestive problems, migraines, allergies, diabetes, heart disease (central wheat belly obesity as the main culprit), arthritis, even dementia.  As a cardiologist, Davis draws clinical examples of how his patients have been cured of their cardiovascular problems when they simply stopped eating wheat. 

 Not so simple, he agrees. Wheat is even more addictive than pure sugar. Davis coins a useful phrase: “Bread is Sold Beer” and “Beer is Liquid Bread”. What is the difference between the two?: Yeast and time of fermentation. Not even yeast, it turns out: you can make alcohol out of yeast designated for bread making.  This may be why alcoholics hate to give up their sugar AND their bread. Davis explores the neurochemistry to show how the differences between the two are not so stark. 

 All these books are very easy to read without a background in dietary science, policy, or biology – though having a background in any will reassure you that these are sound books routed in current science. They are must reads for anyone who wants to understand the multi layered dynamics of food addiction.