NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of Salt Sugar Fat comes a “gripping” (The Wall Street Journal) exposé of how the processed food industry exploits our evolutionary instincts, the emotions we associate with food, and legal loopholes in their pursuit of profit over public health.
“The processed food industry has managed to avoid being lumped in with Big Tobacco—which is why Michael Moss’s new book is so important.”—Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit
Everyone knows how hard it can be to maintain a healthy diet. But what if some of the decisions we make about what to eat are beyond our control? Is it possible that food is addictive, like drugs or alcohol? And to what extent does the food industry know, or care, about these vulnerabilities? In Hooked, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Michael Moss sets out to answer these questions—and to find the true peril in our food.
Moss uses the latest research on addiction to uncover what the scientific and medical communities—as well as food manufacturers—already know: that food, in some cases, is even more addictive than alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Our bodies are hardwired for sweets, so food giants have developed fifty-six types of sugar to add to their products, creating in us the expectation that everything should be cloying; we’ve evolved to prefer fast, convenient meals, hence our modern-day preference for ready-to-eat foods. Moss goes on to show how the processed food industry—including major companies like Nestlé, Mars, and Kellogg’s—has tried not only to evade this troubling discovery about the addictiveness of food but to actually exploit it. For instance, in response to recent dieting trends, food manufacturers have simply turned junk food into junk diets, filling grocery stores with “diet” foods that are hardly distinguishable from the products that got us into trouble in the first place. As obesity rates continue to climb, manufacturers are now claiming to add ingredients that can effortlessly cure our compulsive eating habits.
A gripping account of the legal battles, insidious marketing campaigns, and cutting-edge food science that have brought us to our current public health crisis, Hooked lays out all that the food industry is doing to exploit and deepen our addictions, and shows us why what we eat has never mattered more.
Food is a drug, and its manufacturers are tempting consumers into addiction, according to this contentious expos by Pulitzer-winning journalist Moss (Salt Sugar Fat). The author explores the science behind the notion that food is addictive in its effects on the body and mind: MRI scans show the brain lighting up at the thought of a cheeseburger much like it does at a snort of cocaine, while sugar, salt, and fat activate receptors that prompt the brain to generate a rush of pleasure. Moss argues that Kraft Heinz, Coca Cola, Nestl , and fast food companies exploit weaknesses to stoke gluttony by adding copious amounts of sugar, salt, and fat to their products, and tantalizing consumers with novel artificial flavors. He also shows how advertising can manipulate memory: in one experiment, subjects viewed a Wendy's ad that "played up the restaurant's playgrounds for kids," urging consumers to relive those memories most subjects didn't catch that Wendy's never had playgrounds. With his usual blend of lucid exposition and sharp-eyed reportage from corporate test kitchens, supermarket aisles, and fast-food counters, Moss provocatively suggests that human will-power is helpless against corporate puppeteers toying with humans' neurochemical and digestive strings. Readers are sure to find much fascinating and frightening food for thought in this fast-paced survey.