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Food Reward and Energy Intake: Can Food be Too Tasty?

  • By Fahad Ahmad
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Food Reward and Energy Intake: Can Food be Too Tasty?

You might have heard of terms such as 'hyperpalatable,' 'addictive,' or 'bliss point' associated with food. We will see if these terms have any grounding in science or are pseudoscientific terms used to project and propagate fear of food. 

How it Began

In the last half of the 20th century, substantial research in nutrition started to move towards the brain, especially with interest in the reward system. Many authors began writing books about how the brain can impact overconsumption and obesity. The term 'hyperpalatable' was eventually coined to indicate foods that were 'too tasty.' Many writers started calling specific foods 'addictive' and so pleasurable that they hit a certain 'bliss point' in the brain. 

Let us discuss these terms in detail.

Hyperpalatable

The problem is that we have evidence within scientific literature that shows that both lean and obese individuals have the same capacity to terminate a meal while obtaining reduced pleasure from eating the same food. This reduced pleasure, called "Sensory Specific Satiety," is similar to how stuffing yourself at a tasty Thanksgiving turkey dinner at Grandma's will make you not want to eat more turkey. 

It is also important to note that short-term increased food intake is not an indicator of someone gaining or losing fat. In other words, even if you eat a large quantity of food or a substantial amount of calories in one sitting because it tasted good, this would not suggest an increase in fat loss or gain.

Bliss Point

The term "Bliss Point" makes no sense in light of the scientific evidence that people's palate adapts to food flavors they got exposed to in the past. In other words, if you eat sweet or salty foods, you will develop a preference for those foods. This preference has no causal impact on energy intake, health outcomes, or fluctuations in body fat. When it comes to an association, it is also important to note the contradictory evidence that non-nutritive sweeteners are 'rewarding' but associated with fat loss. 

Addictive Food

Due to 'Sensory Specific Satiety,' the notion that food can be addictive makes no sense. There is sparse evidence suggesting 'eating' rather than 'food' addiction. However, this would have paradoxical implications such as various cuisines being bland if the consumers of the cuisine are leaner or humans being inherently addicted to food despite fluctuations in body composition across the planet. 

In the rare case of "eating addiction," it is strongly recommended that individuals seek professional help since food may have nothing to do with the problem. 

Conclusion

The tragedy is that many such terms have garnered cults in various nutrition spheres and have led to many individuals consuming bitter, bland, and inaccessible foods devoid of nutrients and calories, and where 'natural is better' is preached. 

When we started our business and manufactured our products, we had tried to reduce the palatability of our Energy Pods by reducing sweeteners. However, after looking at the scientific studies ourselves, we've concluded that health and tasty should go hand in hand. Henceforth, we will focus on improving the taste of the produce as much as possible until strong evidence suggest otherwise. Obesity and energy intake are tied more to the structure of foods rather than their reward value or taste. 

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