Scientists Say Food in America is Hyper-Palatable

The Lempert Report
January 16, 2020

And that is a bad thing

Tera Fazzino, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kansas who led the study says that most foods eaten in the U.S.— including some marketed for weight loss—contain ingredients which make people want more. These hyper-palatable foods contain certain combinations of sugar, fat, salt, and carbohydrates which tap into the brain's reward system and make it hard for us to stop eating them.

According to the study, published in the journal Obesity, hyper-palatable foods fall into three categories. Foods where at least 25 percent of the calories come from fat, and salt makes up 0.03 percent salt of their weight; those with at least 20 percent calories from fat and 20 percent from sugar; and items getting 40 percent of calories from carbohydrates and 0.2 percent of weight from salt.

Foods for example deemed hyper-palatable include hotdogs, which marry salt and fat; brownies which bring together fat and sugar; and pretzels which contain salt and carbohydrates.

To come up with this definition, researchers used special software to see which ingredients 7,757 foods sold in the U.S. shared. They reviewed 14 existing studies on foods manufactured to contain ingredients, which make them more appealing.

Based on the new criteria, the team found 62 percent of foods sold in the U.S. was hyper-palatable. Of those, 70 percent were high in fat and salt, 25 percent were high in fat and sugar, and 16 percent featured a lot of carbohydrates and salt. 

Among foods labelled as having no, reduced, or low levels of sugar, fat, sodium, or calories, 49 percent were hyper-palatable.

Fazzino, who is also associate director of the CofrinLogan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment at KU's Life Span Institute, told Newsweek: "These findings indicate that many foods marketed for weight management may have characteristics of enhanced palatability."