How does our environment contribute to food addiction?
With the introduction of industrialized foods, our shopping environments have changed dramatically in the last 60 years.
On average, today’s supermarket carries 47,000 food products, most of them processed, bagged and boxed. These products take up the largest space in our grocery store aisles, while real, healthier food choices tend to line the perimeter.
Processed junk foods override the body’s ability to become nutritionally satisfied, causing hunger to set in soon after eating them. These foods can become chemically addicting due to their effect on the neuropathways in the brain. The sophisticated marketing of candy, sweetened cereal and soda targeting children, shows us how our current food environment drives food addiction starting early in life.
For some time our tax dollars have subsidized the very crops that end up producing low-quality, processed junk foods. GMO corn and soy is found in the majority of processed foods on our supermarket shelves. Industrialized farming has managed to dictate what foods are available to the public—with shocking results: the surplus of government-subsidized foods end up in our children’s school lunch programs. Meanwhile, organic farmers struggle with the layers of bureaucracy and high costs to get their foods organically certified and transported to our grocers and tables.
Americans now spend a little less than 10% of their income on food—half of what was spent on food in the 1950s. In fact, we now spend less of a percentage of our income on food than any other country in the world. But we are paying a high price: eating low-quality food is driving up healthcare costs. Americans currently pay three times as much of their income on healthcare as they did six decades ago.
In his book Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, Kelly D. Brownell coined the term “toxic food environment.” He describes how our American culture at the end of the 20th century fosters and promotes obesity and unprecedented food consumption.
In his paper titled “The Perils of Ignoring History: Big Tobacco Played Dirty and Millions Died. How Similar is Big Food?” Brownell reveals how the food industry confuses consumers with false marketing strategies. He also explains how many big corporations:
- Focus on “personal responsibility” as the cause of the “nations” unhealthy diet.
- Raise fears that government action usurps personal freedom.
- Criticize studies that hurt industry as junk science.
- Emphasize physical activity over diet.
- State there are no “good” or “bad” foods, hence no food or food types that should be targeted for change.
- Plant doubt when concerns are raised about the industry.