When I was in college I was going to switch into food science. But then I took a bunch of food science classes and did some lab work. And I realized food science wasn't about food, it was about making combinations of absolute garbage taste addictively good. Most of the food science professors I had were former employees of Nabisco or Kraft. I couldn't believe how ignorant they were of nutrition and it showed. But the worst was the "taste lab" I participated in. What finally made me quit was when they were testing "breakfast" bars. They were beyond disgusting combinations of commercial breakfast cereals glued together with powdered milks and other crap. They were just plain nauseating. That was the end of my adventures in food science.
There has been a lot of talk about food reward lately. Stephan Guyenet has an excellent series up. I have been a fan of the concept for a long time, since I learned about Seth Roberts from Freakonomics. The concept was instrumental when I was battling binge eating. I do think there is just more than the addictiveness of the food that matters, that micronutrients and fatty acid imbalances play a role, but industrial food is the common thread here. Here is food that is designed to trigger overeating and is also devoid of nutrition. Whenever I forget about what this is actually like I just visit a blog called The Impulsive Buy, where they post reviews of such products. It takes me back to my days of telling myself I'd just eat ONE king cone and then eating the whole box. Some people can control themselves a little easier, I do have an addictive personality in general and there are lots of addictive disorders in my family. However, this is behavior that I have excised from my life by no longer bringing any food designed by food scientists into my house and also by keeping myself satiated with real foods.
Here are some lovely examples of what not to eat:
Don't those look gross? However, I know if I started eating them I would probably keep eating them.
Kettle Chips are the most evil though because they are not really as immediately gross-out as the Oreos. They actually seem kind of classy and healthy, until you eat the whole bag of PUFA-laced goodness.
Another rather devious product is Ben & Jerrys, because it also seems kind of natural. But they do employ food scientists there whose sole job is to make you shovel the gobs of sugar flavored sugar into your mouth. I make ice cream at home sometimes and I never overeat it the way I used to overeat this, despite the fact it tastes much better, it just doesn't have the triggering textures, flavors, and aromas.
Whenever the blogosphere is arguing about the health benefits or risks of bacon or potatoes, I just remember these are the kind of things most Americans, particularly children, are eating. And bizarrely, our society seems to think it's OK to serve this kind of food in schools...