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The Dorito Effect: Why Food Flavoring Could Be to Blame for the Obesity Epidemic

The Dorito Effect: Why Food Flavoring Could Be to Blame for the Obesity Epidemic
It's no surprise that obesity, diabetes, and other chronic health issues have been on the rise in the past decade.

Doctors are blaming the increase in processed ingredients such as sugar, carbohydrates, and fat, saying they are solely to blame for the rampant occurrence of these diseases.

Author Mark Schatzker disagrees. He believes that artificial flavors in boxed goods, sauces, and spices are to blame.

According to Schatzker's research, Americans consume over 600 million pounds of flavoring every year. In his book, The Dorito Effect he shares that in the past 50 years, the massive amounts of sugar, salt, carbohydrates, and fat that our society consumes has increased drastically because the chemically-constructed flavors make us eat more.

How else can chemical flavoring affect your health?

Schatzker joins HER Radio to discuss his latest book and why flavoring is the reason there has been such an increase in diabetes, obesity, and other health diseases.
Featured Speaker:
Mark Schatzker, Author
Mark SchatzkerMark Schatzker is an award-winning writer based in Toronto. He is a radio columnist for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation and a frequent contributor to the Globe and Mail, Condé Nast Traveler, and Bloomberg Pursuits. Schatzker's specialty is the intersection of food, science and travel.

His culinary adventures have taken him from Mongolia (mutton stomach) and Newfoundland (rod-caught Atlantic salmon) to northern Sweden (where natives live to an improbably old age on reindeer), and all points in between. In 2010, Schatzker published his first book, Steak: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef.

RadioMD Presents:HER Radio | Original Air Date: June 4, 2015
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD

Dr. Pam Peeke, founder of the Peeke Performance Center and renowned nutrition and fitness expert and Michelle King Robson, founder of and leading women's advocate cut through the confusion and share the naked bottom line truth about all things woman. It's time for HerRadio.

PAM: Michelle, how many times have you and I talked about the whole issue of obesity? Right?


PAM: Like what causes it and all of the factors and elements. It's just such a flippin' complex problem and we are all searching for answers. There's a book. It's one that you and I just love.

MICHELLE: It's fabulous.

PAM: It's a brand new book called The Dorito Effect. Put those Doritos down. The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor and the author is Mark Schatzker. I just think this is a fabulous book. He is an award-winning writer based in Toronto, radio columnist for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, frequent contributor to The Globe and Mail and blah, blah, blah, he is just a really cool guy and incredibly smart and with a fabulous book. So, Mark, welcome to HER Radio. We just can't wait to talk about this subject which is all things flavor. How flavor actually may explain a huge reason why people are becoming obese. So, Mark, help us. Start describing what you think is the problem.

MARK: Very simply, we have a problem. Obesity has been growing and everything we do to try to fight it has been ineffective. We have declared war on various nutrients the last 30 or 40 years.

We declared a big war on fat, which we can all remember. Then carbs became our enemy. Lately, we have been talking about sugar. It's not working. Obesity gets worse and worse. It is now the number one preventable cause of disease and number two preventable cause of death. It is a big problem. The one thing we never talk about in North America – we are all Puritans – we never talk about flavor. We never talk about pleasure and deliciousness because we know that's the problem.

We have got to stop eating and if food wasn't so darn tasty, we wouldn't eat so much of it. This is the idea that I challenge in The Dorito Effect. I argue in the book that everything that's wrong with food can be better understood through flavor – through the way it tastes. We have to start understanding food the same way that we experience food which is the way it tastes.

MICHELLE: So, why did you decide to write this book?

MARK: Because I thought there was so much that we were getting wrong. People talk about the overabundance of highly palatable foods. They talk about things like Big Macs, potato chips, soft drinks. I am a food writer. I am a food lover. I understand why some people think these foods are palatable--delicious, let's say. But I think anyone that takes food really seriously doesn't really think of these things are the epitome of gustatory joy.

We sort of see them as cheap thrills. I think they really are cheap thrills. If you look at flavor--flavor is what has really changed about our food system. Very simply, it comes down to this: since about the 1950's, we have had the ability to knock off the flavors of food. Before that we didn't know what made an orange taste like an orange. Now we do. As soon as we figured out what these compounds were, we began manufacturing them in factories and adding them to everything.

That's why I call the book The Dorito Effect, because the very first Dorito was just a salted tortilla chip. Just like the kind you dip in salsa. And that's what people did with it. It didn't sell all that well. It wasn't until they added the flavoring. They made the first flavored Dorito taste like a taco. The next one was nacho cheese. It was these flavorings that made them so irresistible. That is what made the Dorito such a success and we are adding that stuff to everything. But it doesn't end there.

The other way that flavor explains what happens to food, is that the whole food that we grow, the tomatoes, the strawberries, the chicken – the foods that we should be eating; we have been telling ourselves for decades that we need to eat these foods – they are getting blander and blander.


MARK: So, if you forget all of the nutrition stuff for a moment and just look at deliciousness, deliciousness migrated from the produce aisle and meat counter to the junk food aisle. Is it any wonder that people are eating what they are eating? We are wired for deliciousness and we changed deliciousness and that is how we changed what we eat.

PAM: There are 605 million pounds of flavoring that Americans eat every year. This is obviously the flavoring that is used as an additive. My question to you then, if this has really happened – which I think the fast majority of us would agree – is it the flavoring that is so addictive? Is it all of this stuff? Because you said that this deliciousness, as it were, this reward and pleasure has now moved into those aisles with the big bags and the boxes with all of the additives. What is it that is making it so difficult for people? Is there truly an addictive quality to this flavoring stuff?

MARK: There is absolutely an addictive quality. It is believed that a BMI of 40 or over – they refer to this, The Center for Disease Control, as extremely obese--is consistent with food addiction, which is to say a kind of a ruinous cycle of eating. A binging – regret – food getting in the way of work; food getting in the way of relationships. So, it can be a really serious problem.

But I think what is even more interesting to consider is that there are aspects of addiction that many people with a BMI far less than 40 experience, which is to say craving. When you look at the neuroscience of food addiction the difference between the food addict and healthy eaters, it's not that the food addicts like the food more. It's that they crave food more.

They sit around dreaming of it; wanting it. They have no power against these cravings and yet when they eat food, it doesn't taste nearly as good as the thought of the food. They keep eating and eating and they can never really fill that hole. There is absolutely an addictive quality, but the more interesting question is how do we get there? The question that we have never asked, which we need to ask is why does food have flavor in the first place? We always thought it was no big deal to make a soft drink taste like orange, to make candy taste like orange or ice cream artificially flavored like an orange. But when you look at why food has flavor it is there for a really important reason.

That is that flavor is the language of nutrition. There is a gray paper in the Journal of Science which is one the most prestigious scientific journals which found that the flavors humans most like in a tomato are all inextricably linked to the essential nutrients. That flavor system that had people wondering around craving certain foods worked really well for thousands and thousands of years. We did a great job of meeting our nutritional needs long before we had any idea what a vitamin was, or a mineral.

But it was when we achieved the ability to take these flavors, knock them off in a lab, produce them in a factory, and now we can add tomato flavoring to a pizza sauce, to a ketchup-flavored potato chip. Let's look at that potato chip in particular. When you take a potato chip and give it that ketchup flavor and you add that tomato flavor – you are giving it this artificial sheen of nutrition.

When you eat it, your body thinks, "Oh, this is great. I am getting all those nutrients in a tomato." But what is your stomach getting? It's not getting those. It's not getting the fiber, the antioxidants. It's getting calories.

PAM: Okay. So, Mark, very briefly then, what should someone do out there? What is your answer?

MARK: They should be aware. We have to think more about flavor. Look at the ingredient panel. If you see the words "artificial" or "natural flavors" – and natural flavors are not natural they are created in a lab, produced in factories. Be wary of those foods. Those foods were designed to seem delicious. But also, let's start buying better whole foods. Visit farmer's markets. Go to supermarkets that sell tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes and strawberries that actually taste like strawberries.

MICHELLE: I agree.

PAM: I love that. Just run away from all of the additives, the preservatives. Because you are right, they are messing with our ability to be able to grab onto the whole produce that actually works for us. I think this is fabulous. Everyone, we have been talking with Mark Schatzker who has written a fabulous book. It is a real game changer.

It is called The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavors. His website is Run out and grab this book because it is going to help you understand why the product aisle, I mean the real produce aisle and farmer's markets is where it's at.

Thank you so much, Mark, for being on HerRadio. I'm Dr. Pam Peeke with Michelle King Robson.

MICHELLE: Flavor chemicals are so potent that just a few ounces changed the flavor of Niagara Falls for over an hour. You're listening to HER Radio on RadioMD. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Stay well.