Monday, May 4, 2015

The Dorito Effect

The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker
Simon & Schuster: 5/5/2015
eBook review copy, 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9781476724218

A lively and important argument from an award-winning journalist proving that the key to reversing America'€™s health crisis lies in the overlooked link between nutrition and flavor.
In The Dorito Effect, Mark Schatzker shows us how our approach to the nation's number one public health crisis has gotten it wrong. The epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are not tied to the overabundance of fat or carbs or any other specific nutrient. Instead, we have been led astray by the growing divide between flavor -the tastes we crave- and the underlying nutrition.
Since the late 1940s, we have been slowly leeching flavor out of the food we grow. Those perfectly round, red tomatoes that grace our supermarket aisles today are mostly water, and the big breasted chickens on our dinner plates grow three times faster than they used to, leaving them dry and tasteless. Simultaneously, we have taken great leaps forward in technology, allowing us to produce in the lab the very flavors that are being lost on the farm. Thanks to this largely invisible epidemic, seemingly healthy food is becoming more like junk food: highly craveable but nutritionally empty. We have unknowingly interfered with an ancient chemical language - flavor - that evolved to guide our nutrition, not destroy it.
With in-depth historical and scientific research, The Dorito Effect casts the food crisis in a fascinating new light, weaving an enthralling tale of how we got to this point and where we are headed. We've been telling ourselves that our addiction to flavor is the problem, but it is actually the solution. We are on the cusp of a new revolution in agriculture that will allow us to eat healthier and live longer by enjoying flavor the way nature intended.
My Thoughts:

The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker is a very highly recommended, well researched account that addresses the cause of the health crisis today as being a direct result of what we have done to our food.

In an effort to increase size, and production, we have taken the natural flavor out of food. Our bodies naturally crave flavors that the current food isn't providing so we eat more trying to fill the flavor void we're missing. Focusing on mainly chicken and tomatoes, Schatsker does an excellent job tracing how the change in our food happened and the results. There is a complex relationship between flavor and nutrition in food and we have diluted the flavor to increase size and production. Chicken today doesn't taste anything like the chicken of the past. Tomatoes today are mostly water. "The rise in obesity is the predictable result of the rise in manufactured deliciousness. Everything we add to food just makes us want it more." Schatzker points out that the big food companies have "created the snack equivalent of crystal meth and gotten us all hooked." Not only is more and more manufactured flavor being added to things, the availability of the food with enhanced flavors is more available.

"The Dorito Effect, very simply, is what happens when food gets blander and flavor technology gets better. This book is about how and why that took place. It's also about the consequences, which include obesity and metabolic disturbance along with a cultural love-hate obsession with food. This book argues that we need to begin understanding food through the same lens by which it is experienced: how it tastes. The food crisis we're spending so much time and money on might be better thought of as a large-scale flavor disorder. Our problem isn't calories and what our bodies do with them. Our problem is that we want to eat the wrong food. The longer we ignore flavor, the longer we are bound to be victims of it. This book is also about the solution. The Dorito Effect can be reversed. That's already happening on small farms and in pioneering science labs."

Schatzker notes the words to look for on your food that indicate the presence of chemicals that fool your nose and chemicals that fool your tongue. "The following words indicate the presence of chemicals that fool your nose: natural flavor(s) natural flavoring(s) artificial flavor(s) flavoring, flavor. The following words indicate the presence of chemicals that fool your tongue: monosodium glutamate MSG disodium guanlyate disodium inosinate torula yeast yeast extract hydrolyzed protein autolyzed yeast saccharin (Sweet Twin, Sweet N Low, Necta Sweet) aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin) acesulfame potassium (Ace-K, Sunett, Sweet One) sucralose (Splenda) neotame (Newtame) advantame stevia."

I have been talking about this book the whole time to anyone who will listen. Schatzker does and exceptional job presenting the information and scientific research in an entertaining, accessible, and informative manner.  In The Dorito Effect he divides the book into three parts: He tells us what the Dorito effect is, the importance of flavor, and the cure for the Dorito effect. As is my wont, I was thrilled to see a bibliography, notes and index.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Simon & Schuster for review purposes.

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