It does not need to show that the food industry has the secret formula for designing irresistible flavors, those that make a bite take us to the next no matter how much we want to avoid it. After the books and documentaries that have pointed to the existence of this knowledge, it is a capacity that is practically taken for granted; After all, everyone knows what it costs to stop eating a few chips or a piece of pizza after the first bite. But scientific analysis had not proposed the formula with which so much flavor can be achieved so far,
Small studies and experiments have been done that indicate that a certain combination of fats and salt can increase up to 30% the palatability of a food, which is its quality to be pleasant to the palate. And, last year, a neuroimaging work concluded that high-fat, low-carb meals forcefully activate the rewarding brain circuits, the mechanism that drives us to eat to survive. Now, in an interesting step forward, researchers at the University of Kansas in the United States (USA) have proposed a way to detect these hyperpalatable foods just by looking at the composition on the nutritional label (or a food composition database).
The new paper, which has come to light in the journal Obesity, identifies three food groups that be distinguished by their proportions of fat, sodium, sugar and carbohydrates. According to the study, hyperpalatability occurs when more than 20% of calories come from fats and so many other sugars; when more than 25% of calories come from fat and 0.3% of the product's weight, or more, is sodium; and when more than 40% of calories come from carbohydrates and the sodium content is equal to or greater than 0.2%. Among them are cakes, cereals, some meat products, pizza, pasta and savory snacks, but there are also surprises,
The hyperpalatability of arugula and carrot
The text of the new work describes as "immense" the contribution of hyperpalatable foods to increase the risk of having obesity, because, the authors argue, they make us eat more and relax the physiological mechanisms that warn us that we are satisfied. With the health damage that this disease entails, it seems right to conclude that they need to be limited. But, although it is positive to have the ability to detect food that, in addition to having a poor nutritional profile, can cause diners to consume more than the count, the new work brings enough nuances to think twice.
If you apply the parameters of the three groups of hyperpalatable foods to the products you put in the shopping basket, you will come to unsurprising conclusions such as that sweets, bacon, a burger and a pizza are among them. But you'll also get less predictable results, such as avocado and roast potatoes coming into the definition proposed by scientists. Arugla, because of its sodium content and carbohydrate richness, is also hyperpalatable, according to this definition,
Categories are so open that 62% of the 7,700 foods the researchers analyzed, which are part of a database that reflects the food commonly consumed in the U.S., fit into at least one group. Most - 70% - meet the criteria of combining fat and sugar, 25% enter fat and sodium and only 16% belong to carbohydrates and sodium. Scientists recognize that limiting so many foods is not possible, and point out that they often do not justify their hyperpalability on their own.
Many times is the way to cook or process food which makes them hyperpalatable: 81% of 478 meals selected for their ingredients had been prepared, at least, in a way that made it meet the definition of hyperpalatable. Much of them could have been cooked without the synergy between nutrients that makes the flavor much more attractive than the one each would bring separately. A clear example is the glazed carrot cooked with butter,
'sin' products with a lot of flavor
The guidelines that scientists have proposed after analyzing the literature of this recent field of study can be of use to both scientists and consumers. The former can begin to define hyperpalatable foods quantitatively, when currently doing so by designing study categories such as "desserts" or "fast food". Consumers have a new way of trying to draw conclusions from the nutrition data sheet, as if they were Egyptologists engaged in deciphering what animals mean by pyramid hieroglyphics.
, this definition is just a proposal, but it points to interesting consequences. For example, the analysis has completed 5% of foods that were defined as hyperpalatable were labeled as sugar-free, fat, salt or calories, or as low in these parameters. And 49% of all those who were accompanied by such allegations fit the one of the three groups. Interestingly, 80% of the foods manufacturers propose as reduced fat or calories met the criteria to be considered hyperpalatable.