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Friday, 1 April 2011

More Food For Thought

There has been a lot of publicity and comment in recent years about diet and eating problems amongst youngsters. These have ranged from the issues of obesity to those of anorexia with the risks of poor nutrition arising from either very fussy eating or eating a very limited range of foods.

Yet in the developed world the proportion of food costs to domestic income has fallen steadily and the typical supermarket has a very wide range of choices on offer. Also, there is no shortage of information available about cooking, recipes or diets.

However, if you look in the shopping trolleys of very many typical families you will see a high proportion of pre-prepared, packaged and manufactured foods. They are certainly easy to get to the table and apparently geared to tastes.

But “tastes” and demand can arise from marketing and heavy hitting advertising aimed at both families and children. All the skills and techniques derived from experience, psychology and consumer research are deployed to sell the goods and maximise the returns.

Critically, these days there is a vast armoury of synthetic chemical colourings, flavourings, flavour enhancers, fillers and substances designed to impact and sharpen the experience. There are still some relatively natural ones, but these are often enhanced or concentrated, notably sugars.

Whilst these foods affect the whole of the body one way or another there are two senses that have the first effects, smell and taste. There is a great deal of work done in the design and making of these products to ensure that they hit those senses hard and in a way that determines preferences both immediate and future.

There are a number of problems that are potential here. An obvious one is if the design leads to cravings and the desire for more than is needed, especially if the foods lead to weight gain. Another is that the effect and impact of the artificial tastes and smells means that children are not simply unused to ordinary and natural foods but because of the more subtle or different tastes come to reject them.

However, there is another possibility that seems not to be considered at all in relation to those who fail to eat or refuse. Is it possible that the body is telling that person that it has grown to react to the substances in the products and can neither cope with them nor want them?

One special issue is how far the recent dependence on manufactured foods etc. has actively degraded or grossly distorted the senses of taste and smell. So that an individual cannot cope with ordinary food and nor can they cope with the substances within the various chemically designed and manufactured ones.

Not only may we now have two generations of people whose senses have been degraded, who have little experience or knowledge in actively managing their foot intakes and simply do not know how to deal with basic ordinary food.

With food prices beginning to rise sharply and manufacturing and transport costs in turn going up faster, the prospects are not good.

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