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The “bliss point” in manufactured foods is the optimal point of a variety of taste sensations--sugar and salt are two of the key players. Processed food companies spend millions of dollars every year, as well as hundreds of hours, trying to create these bliss points which result in consumers coming back for more. There is a reason why you can’t just have one chip or one cookie--these packaged food powerhouses have an endless abyss of customers because they have found the perfect formulas for the bliss point.
The concept of the bliss point was developed by a psychologist and market researcher named Howard Moskowitz. A Harvard graduate, one of his first projects focused on how to get U.S. Army soldiers to eat their rations (which weren’t the most palatable meals). Many soldiers were eating merely half their MREs (meals ready-to-eat) and then throwing away the rest which meant our military was not getting the calories needed for physical output.
As a market researcher, Moskowitz started by surveying the soldiers by asking them how much of certain foods they would like to eat, and how frequently they wanted those foods. They preferred very flavorful foods like turkey tetrazzini but only for short periods of time. And vice versa, they like mundane foods such as bread for a longer duration of steady consumption. It is common for taste buds to crave large, bold flavors, however, the brain eventually depresses the desire for those flavors if too many are consumed. This is why much of one’s diet may be comprised of bland flavors coming from foods such as bread, rice, and pasta.
Finding just the right amount of flavors and tastes is the end goal of the bliss point. If a food has the perfect combination of sweetness, saltiness, and fat, you will keep coming back for more of that fare. The bliss point combination releases dopamine in the rewards center in our brain which keeps the cravings up for that particular food. Addiction to sugary and salty flavors is processed in our brains in the same manner as an addiction to drugs!
Food manufacturing companies are constantly testing their products in order to hone in on the bliss point for all of their different foods. It may be to your surprise that this testing isn’t just done on cookies, chips, and soda. Essentially, almost anything in a wrapper has likely gone through multilevel stages of testing in order to reach that coveted processed food bliss point. The ultimate goal of the exercise is to keep customers coming back for more and more--this is why large food manufacturers are so profitable. One of the most noted bliss point formulations is the one found in Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper. It took ages to get the formula for that soda just right but when they did (with the help from Moskowitz, himself), it was wildly successful.
So how do we combat this? It’s not wonder, our country has junk food addictions when they are formulated for that very intention. The key is to find your own bliss points which do not depend heavily on sugar and salt. By reducing these two additives, your taste buds will become more sensitive to them and your tolerance for the two will drop. Seeking out new bold flavors with the same umami notes that do not include detrimental ingredients is a great way to transition while keeping the food repertoire interesting. There are so many additions that will excite the taste buds in the same manner salt does such as lemon, vinegar, soy sauce and other umami flavors. It can be difficult to transition from processed bliss point foods to a healthy diet and that’s why at Doctor’s Weight Loss, we have medical grade products which taste great but without the sugar and sodium. If you’re trying to get back on track but mapping out your own grocery plan sounds daunting (and possibly tasteless), check out our delicious and ready-to-go meal plans here and kick those bliss point processed foods!