Ice cream, fries, pizza, chocolate bars, potato crisps, burgers, biscuits, cereals, soft drinks… If you have access to processed food, it probably accounts for at least some of your diet. There are more ranges and more convenience than ever, with rising obesity to match. This book by Michael Moss looks at why we feel compelled to scoff food which is high in sugar, salt and fat, and how the food industry exploits that.
It’s not a diet book, nor is it scolding us for our food choices. The angle is clearly-explained neuroscience, evolutionary biology and genetics. To some extent, we can’t help our liking of processed food as a species and many people are unable to moderate their consumption of it, for a variety of reasons. Some people are also more disposed to store their extra calories than others, a trait which would have been desirable in the hunter-gatherer era. Evolution hasn’t caught up with changing lifestyles.
The book isn’t excusing an unhealthy diet or telling us we shouldn’t eat processed food at all. Instead, the blame is on the powerful companies, who make their products so enticing, cheap and available. Their refusal to admit that their products can harm people has a parallel in the tobacco companies refusing to admit that smoking is addictive. The definitions of addiction are explored in this book and it is concluded that yes, processed food high in sugar, salt and fat has addictive qualities. This book has an American focus (for example, in the law and in the names of snack brands) but the content applies to anywhere struggling with obesity rates and swamped with processed convenience food.
Hooked is certainly food for thought. It’s not likely to change the way you eat – particularly with its explanation of why diets don’t work for most people – but it expands your knowledge. I finished reading it while snacking on tortilla chips.
Published in 2021.