Are You a “Heavy User” of Salty, Sugary, Fatty Foods? Let Michael Moss Open Your Eyes

Diet check-up:  Are you hooked on too much salt sugar and fat?

Join the Conversation: Are you a “heavy user” of salty, sugary or fatty foods? 

salt sugar and fatAre you hooked on salty, sugary or fatty processed foods?

If you wonder why certain packaged food products call out to you often, you must read the brilliant, eye-opening book, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us from Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Moss, an investigatve reporter for The New York Times.

Lately, while researching and writing my next book, I haven’t been able to put down the fascinating Salt Sugar Fat.. (Mostly, I’ve been listening to the book via CDs while en route to the gym, Whole Foods or bvusiness meetings. This book was so compelling that I’m now listening to all 12 CDs again.)

Frankly, I’m in awe of Moss and his investigative prowess. Over a period of three-and-a-half years, he interviewed hundreds of industry insiders, who revealed jaw-dropping, inside information about what our favorite food companies do to land space on grocery store shelves, crush the competition, boost the bottom line, please Wall Street, and influence our buying habits so we can’t pass up on foods with salt, sugar and fat.

For those of you, who find yourself frequently buying and eating certain processed chips, cookies or cereals, Moss sheds light on why this may be happening.

The captivating processed food substances you find on supermarket shelves “are knowingly designed—engineered is the better word—to maximize their allure,” Moss writes.

Michael-Moss_credit-Tony-Ce._V374823686_ (2)“Their packaging is tailored to excite our kids,” he continues.

“Their advertising uses every psychological trick to overcome any logical arguments we might have for passing the product by.”

Plus, their “taste is so powerful,” he writes, “we remember it from the last time we walked down the aisle and succumbed, snatching them up. And above all else, their formulas are calculated and perfected by scientists who know very well what they are doing.”

Indeed, those of you, who struggle to peel off pounds and hate that you can’t quit over-consuming your favorite sweet soft drinks, salty chips, or fatty cookies, you need to know that food scientists are actually using cutting-edge technology to calculate the “bliss point” and enhance the “mouthfeel” of your preferred foods so they’ll sell more, Moss explains.

Oh Goodness! Food Companies Call Big Buyers of Processed Foods “Heavy Users”

Perhaps one of the more scary revelations Moss makes in Salt, Sugar Fat is how the food industry regards its ardent customers.

In their board rooms and science labs, food industry insiders call you, their loyal buyers, “heavy users.”

No, I’m not talking about drugs, but, in light of recent food addiction research, that shows how the brain lights up on sugar as it does on cocaine, the term “user” is certainly apt.

And you wonder why your most intense, all-consuming, wild cravings for unnatural, packaged, sugary, salty, fatty foodstuffs swoop in on you often as if they were ravenous vultures waiting for their next dead prey to disembowel?

Sorry for the gross imagery, but as a former sugar-addicted journalist, my goal is not only to educate you, but to help you become strong, alert, and determined to lift your choose-healthy-food muscles when you’re at your favorite supermarket, as well as at drug stores, movie theaters and even hospitals..

By the way, just as I was about to put this post up on this Sugar Shock Blog, I discovered — while catching up on Dr. Oz Show episodes — that yesterday, Moss was featured in an awesome episode, Supermarket Secrets: How They Fool You Into Buying Foods That Make You Fat.

Watch The Dr. Oz Show episode with Moss now.

And bear in mind, as Moss told Dr. Oz, that “when you walk into the store, there are traps.”

With that in mind, it’s best to be prepared with “that shopping list, commit yourself to stick with it, shop when you’re full, shop with a clear mind,” Moss urges.

Let Michael Moss open your eyes now by buying his intriguing book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.

Join the Conversation: Are you a “heavy user” of salty, sugary or fatty foods?

Children Are Likely Watching Junk Food Ads on Nickelodeon

Fat kid watching TV 6a00d834520ed269e20105361768fc970c-320wi Whenever children watch the popular children’s network Nickelodeon, nearly 80 percent of food ads they see are promoting foods of poor nutritional quality,
according to an analysis conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

This is only “a modest and not quite statistically significant drop
from 2005, when CSPI researchers found that about 90 percent of food
ads on Nick were for junk food,” CSPI announced.

The watchdog organization points out that between the two studies (in 2005 and 2009), the
food industry instituted a self-regulatory program through the Council
of Better Business Bureaus, the Children’s Food and Beverage
Advertising Initiative

Cookie crisp - gm ccok cisp Listen to what else CSPI discovered with advertising from food companies that
participate in the “self-regulatory program.”

Of 452 foods and
beverages that companies claim are acceptable to market to children, 267, or nearly 60 percent, do NOT meet CSPI’s recommended
nutrition standards for food marketing to children, such as General
Mills’ Cookie Crisp
and Reese’s Puffs cereals, Kellogg Apple Jacks and
Cocoa Krispies cereals, Kellogg Rice Krispies Treats, Campbell’s
Goldfish crackers and SpaghettiOs, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and
many Unilever Popsicles.

“While industry self-regulation is providing some useful
benchmarks, it’s clearly not shielding children from junk food
advertising, on Nick and elsewhere,” said CSPI nutrition policy
director Margo G. Wootan.

“It’s a modest start, but not sufficient to
address children’s poor eating habits and the sky-high rates of
childhood obesity.”

“Nickelodeon should be ashamed that it earns so much money from
carrying commercials that promote obesity, diabetes, and other health
problems in young children,” Wootan said. “If media and food companies
don’t do a better job exercising corporate responsibility when they
market foods to children, Congress and the FTC will need to step in to
protect kids’ health.”

Wootan makes some valid points. Nick should be embarrassed by the fact that so many TV ads pitch junk foods that can lead to obesity, diabetes and more.

It’s time, I believe, for the government to step in to prevent junk food advertising to kids.

FDA Finds Fault With Diet Coke Plus’s “Misbranded” Label & Nutrition Claims

Dietcokeplus It's a given that diet soda isn't a healthy drink.

But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally woken up.

The governmental agency — which allows nutrient-lacking, potentially harmful diet drinks on the market in the first place — is now berating Coca-Cola's new Diet Coke Plus because it's "misbranded."

The governmental agency, which posted a warning letter on its website, finds fault with the soda company's use of the word "Plus" as part of its name and label. What's more, Diet Coke Plus doesn't meet the FDA's criteria to make a nutrient content claim.

I generally don't applaud FDA actions — after all, I'm nowhere near a fan of synthetic, nutrient-lacking diet drinks containing aspartame, Splenda, etc. — but this time I'm behind the FDA for its smart move to berate Diet Coke Plus for being marketed as "a good source of vitamins B3, B6, and B12 and the minerals zinc and magnesium."

It's about time the FDA called Coca-Cola to task for boldly claiming on its website that each 8-ounce serving of the soft drink "provides 15% of your RDI for niacin and vitamins B6 and B12, and 10% for zinc and magnesium."

Anyhow, I appreciate the FDA's stand that it's just not "appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages."

Let's call soft drinks what they are — nutrient lacking. Besides, can your body even process these so-called added nutrients?

In fact, one expert tells me that "the phosphoric acid and pH alone would prevent ANY absorption whatsoever" of these nutrients. Besides, the expert adds, "the vitamins or minerals are pure synthetics."

Coca-Cola now has has 15 days to correct its violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Thanks to WebMD, Scientific American and the OC Weekly for their interesting stories about this.

Incidentally, my diet soda days have long gone bye-bye, and after doing research about artificial sweeteners for my book SUGAR SHOCK!, I now religiously steer clear of the stuff. Just give me some water and some fresh vegetables and fruits and supplements if I want extra B vitamins and magnesium.

High Fructose Corn Syrup: Dig Deeper Before Believing the New Corn Lobby Ads & Consuming the Stuff

Have you seen any of the TV spots, print and online banner ads that seek to convince us that high fructose corn syrup is fun to consume?

Before you believe the many new ads from the Corn Refiners Association – which is spending a reported $20 million to $30 million to convince us of its safety — I urge you to get facts from my recent Gab With The Gurus Radio Show, where I had the following guests:

Before, during or after you listen to the Gab With the Gurus Radio Show about high fructose corn syrup, I recommend that you:

Remember, you can listen at any time to the Gab  With the Gurus Radio Show about high fructose corn syrup.

High Fructose Corn Syrup: See My Remarks on 3 Minute Ad Age

Wondering what to think about the new ads for high fructose corn syrup? Last week, Advertising Age interviewd me to get my thoughts about the subject. 

See their piece for 3 Minute Ad Age news story, A Sour View of Corn Refiners' Sweetener Ads, for which I was interviewed.

Special thanks to video producer Jill Bauerle for having the insights to do this story.

“How Many Licks” Sweepstakes

From Gerry Pugliese for Connie’s SUGAR SHOCK! Blog.

Lick your way to a sugar rush!

Don’t worry: I’m not urging you to do that. Rather, Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pops is giving you the chance to win $50,000 by answering Mr. Owl’s 38-year old question, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?"

Of course, any kid knows the answer, “A One…A.two-HOO…A three…” But I guess that’s the problem. I’d rather youngsters figure out how many bites it takes to get to the center of an apple.

Anyway, according to Slashfood, the prize for guessing the licks is 27 POUNDS of assorted Tootsie Roll goodies. Makes my teeth rot and puts me inso Sugar Shock! just thinking about it!

I’m not recommending you take action on this offer, but to get awestruck by this contest, check out the official entry form at And lest you get tempted, remember, sugar highs inevitably lead to sugar lows.

FTC Praises Big Food for Changing Marketing Tactics Aimed at Kids, But Do They Deserve It?

From Jennifer Moore

Yikes! A total of 44 major food and beverage companies spent a whopping $1.6 billion dollars in 2006 marketing their products to kids 17 and under, according to a report released by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC says in a press release that "although there is room for improvement, the food and beverage industries have made significant progress" in marketing more responsibly to children since 2005 when the FTC and the Department of Health and Human Services convened the Workshop on Marketing, Self-Regulation & Childhood Obesity to address the issue.

Oh, really? I’m not so sure about that.

For starters, the food makers promised to either stop targeting ads at kids or to advertise only "better-for-you products" to them.

One product that apparently meets these guidelines, devised by the food corporations themselves, is Kellogg’s Apple Jacks cereal, which was specifically reformulated so that it’s "better for you" (notice that they didn’t say "good for you"), according to Stephanie Clifford of The New York Times.

But a look at Kellogg’s website shows that Apple Jacks contains 12 grams of sugar per serving.

In fact, the very first ingredient listed on the Apple Jacks package is sugar. If that’s an example of something that’s supposedly better for kids, I shudder to think what was worse.

Big Food also issued its own report and press release congratulating themselves on meeting its own guidelines.

The food makers’ report notes that companies used varying criteria to determine the sugar content of "better for you" food, such as food that has no more than 12 grams of sugar per serving (which doesn’t count sugars found naturally in fruits, vegetables, or dairy).

So, by my calculations, Kellogg’s did the absolute least they could, using their own lax standards, to make their Apple Jacks less unhealthy.

The companies also decided for themselves what exactly advertising aimed at children means, so the standards vary.

Interesting. Don’t you think Coca-Cola was well aware that kids watch shows that aren’t primarily aimed at them such as "American Idol," which appeals to some 2 million youngsters, according to Clifford’s New York Times article?

The FTC and Big Food will have to forgive me for being none too impressed with this so-called progress.

I’m not the only one who isn’t bowled over. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood issued its own press release on the FTC’s report, which concludes this way:

"Given the concerning picture of food marketing’s infiltration of children’s lives painted by the FTC               report, it is disappointing that they continue to perpetuate the myth that self-regulation can effectively rein in an industry whose profits rely on commercializing childhood."

The Center for Science in the Public Interest also weighed in with some strong words of their own, saying that Big Food’s pledges to be more responsible are "carefully tailored with loopholes" and arguing that there’s a "disconnect between the food industry’s talking points and what we actually see on television during children’s programming."

Given the crisis of childhood obesity in the U.S. and the seemingly endless ways food manufacturers have found to push their products on children, I completely understand why the CFCC and CSPI feel so strongly.

As a mother to a five-year-old, I also strongly believe that Big Food isn’t doing nearly as well as they should be.

From Jennifer Moore

Dunkin’ Donuts: Is the Company Becoming “Smart,” As Announced? And Why is Rachel Ray Promoting Coffee for This Donut Chain?

Is Dunkin’ Donuts becoming “smart,” as hoopla surrounding its new DDSmart Menu (being rolled out on August 6) would have you believe?

Well, according to Dunkin’ Donuts, this new “healthier” menu will include items that are either at least 25% lower in calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium, or sugar “compared to a base product or other appropriate reference product” and/or contain ingredients that are “nutritionally beneficial.”

Gotta hand it to the company for its clever marketing moves. At first blush, this new development, which we learned about, thanks to Lauren Shepherd of the AP, sounds interesting and even promising.

But, let’s face it, when you examine nutritional data a couple of the supposedly healthier items featured on the menu, the phrase “not smart” may come to mind. (At least to mine.)

Put it this way: The “healthier” medium-sized, 24-ounce Reduced Calorie Berry Smoothie still contains lots of calories (370 to be exact) and massive amounts of sugar (62 grams or about 15 1/2 teaspoons). No idea how much of that is naturally occurring sugar. (The entire drink has 73 grams total carbs or 18.25 tsp. of sugar.)

But this allegedly better-for-you beverage has, according to Dunkin’ Donuts, at least 25% less sugar than its full-calorie Strawberry Banana Smoothie. (This 24-ounce, 550-calorie regular version has 118 grams of carbs, of which 103 grams are sugar or about 25.75 teaspoons.)

Meanwhile, ingredients in this “improved” concoction aren’t anything I’d put in my body these days. The drink still contains sugar as one of the first ingredients, plus sugar in various guises (such as blackberry concentrate, blueberry concentrate, oligofructose and high fructose corn syrup). What’s more, it includes an artificial sweetener such as sucralose (the artificial sweetener sold by market-leading Splenda). .

Jennifer Moore, my research assistant and blogger here put it cleverly. She wrote to me: “Seems to me that saying the Reduced Calorie Berry Smoothie is better for you than the full-calorie Strawberry Banana Smoothie is like saying a light cigarette is healthier than a regular one.”

Now, let’s look at another ostensibly healthier breakfast item on the DDSmart menu: The nutritious-sounding Multigrain Bagel. Are you ready to dash over to Dunkin’ Donuts now to get it?

Well, I invite you to check out the ingredient list first: First off, it has still has 380 calories. Then look at what’s included: Enriched flour is its primary ingredient and high fructose corn syrup is fourth on the list. (When items are listed first, it means there’s lots contained.)

Now let’s peek at the much-touted, new DDSmart Egg White Veggie Flatbread Sandwich. Just how “smart” is this dish? You decide.

(To help you out, note that the dish has 39 carbs, that means they convert quickly to 10 tsp. of sugar; it has 290 calories; and only egg whites. What’s the matter with the yolks — many health experts, who’ve now seen the light of day point out that the yellow part of the egg is very beneficial.)

Look, I’m all for restaurants — especially fast food chains — to finally realize that more people want healthier foods to eat.

But unfortunately, many large companies still don’t “get it,” in my opinion. After all, the gulf between what companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts assume is “beneficial” and what is truly beneficial is still pretty big, if the new DDSmart menu is any indication.

One more thing: I’ve quietly held my tongue for way too long.

Why did Rachel Ray — the adorably, chirpy poster child for quick, healthy meals — team up with Dunkin’ Donuts, a collaboration she began in March 2007? I was sooo disappointed when I first started seeing these ads, because I happen to like Rachel and had hoped she’d become eventually sugar savvy.

You see, even though Rachel — winner of the Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show-Entertainment — speaks about Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, by signing on with the company, she is, in effect, promoting their sugar-filled, morning “treats” such as this Chocolate Glazed Cake Donut. (It has 340 calories and 39 grams of carbs, which translates into 9.75 teaspoons of sugar, because refined carbs are converted into sugar quickly. Most people look at just the sugar content — which is 16 grams or 4 tsp. of sugar.)

Back to Rachel. After all, isn’t she pointing out that American Runs on Dunkin’? (Actually, I think a more accurate way of putting it would be that: America Runs for a Few Minutes on Dunkin’ and Then May Soon Poop Out on Dunkin’ — because of the sugar-shock reaction.)

By allying herself with the donut company, it sure seems that Rachel isn’t hip to sugar’s dangers. (She obviously never read — or even glanced at — my book SUGAR SHOCK!, which I one of publicists sent to previously to her production company.

She seems very smart. Doesn’t she realize that by pushing Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, she’s also promoting their sugar-filled donuts?

By the way, did you hear about the TV star’s alleged remark about the DD coffee she’s pushing?

Reportedly, after taking a sip of her Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, she yelled ‘What is this shit? Get me MY coffee.’ Rumor has it, she wouldn’t continue the ad til given “her” coffee, which reportedly comes from Starbucks.

FYI, the Internet and mainstream media were buzzing about Rachel’s reported unflattering remarks about the company’s coffee, which she later brushed off as ridiculous.

I sure hope I didn’t I ruin my chances of being on the Rachel Ray Show because I was so outspoken. After all this time, I just had to say something.

This just in: At least, Rachel Ray is more into feeding America’s pets well dogs well (or at least better than Americans who run on Dunkin’ Donuts, because the cheerful chef just launched a new line of dog food, as Rachael Ray Nutrish (like nutritious, “only not,” claims Calorie Lab‘s Sarah E. White, who got the news from, which picked it up from PR NewsWire

The dog food — which is touted as having “no fillers, no junk” — includes doggie treats named after her favorite furry friend, Isaboo, including “booscotti” (sure sounds like “biscotti’ to me) in bacon and peanut butter flavors. The nice news is that Rache’s decided to devote proceeds to Rachael’s Rescue, a charity that helps at-risk animals.

Jennifer Moore contributed to this SUGAR SHOCK! Blog post.

“Healthy” Diners Eat More Than Fast Foodies, Study Shows

Note from Connie: You’d think that healthy restaurants would lead you to eat better foods, right? Well, check out the results of this surprising study, which indicates otherwise. Karen James brings you the scoop.

People who dine at so-called “healthy” restaurants often consume more calories that those who dine at fast food restaurants, according to a recent study that will appear in the October issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.


McDonald’s: Children Like Foods Wrapped in Golden Arches Better

A recent study reveals that the $1 billion or so that McDonald’s spends annually on advertising in the U.S. pays off quite handsomely, particularly where 3- to 5-year-olds are concerned.

Indeed, children — especially those who are avid TV watchers — believe that food wrapped in McDonald’s packages containing those well-recognized "Golden Arches" tastes better than the exact same food in plain wrappers, according to a study from researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Center for Healthy Weight at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.


According to the study, which we learned about thanks to the prolific Steven Reinberg of HealthDay News, 63 pre-school children were given two samples of the exact same five foods. They tasted chicken nuggets, a hamburger and french fries from McDonald’s, as well as baby carrots and milk from a grocery store. Their foods were served either in McDonald’s wrappers or in plain paper.

The results, which appeared in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, not only showed that kids liked foods in McDonald’s packaging better, but their degree of preference actually correlated with the number of TV sets they had in their homes and how often they ate at McDonald’s.

"The study shows that even young children are swayed by brand preferences," points out a press release from Lucille Packard Chilren’s Hospital at Stanford.