Updated September 10, 2022

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

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The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food essay
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The New York Times article “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” by Michael Moss reveals the eye opening, stomach churning truths behind the food industry in America. Displaying complete mercilessness, the biggest names in the business desperately pave their way to success while completely disregarding the dangerous Obesity epidemic that is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. Targeting anyone from children to minorities, these head honchos are ruthless for money and they’re not about to let emotions get in the way of cashing out.

Food & Beverage companies will do anything to make their products likeable to the public, and they don’t care if it means risking the health of their consumers. The push for a more popular product not only meant adding more sugar but doing so through trickery. Companies started increasing the sugar content of children’s snacks like yogurt and offering diet products for adults with hidden sugars, doing anything they could to keep America addicted. While being confronted by scientists on the issue, the head executives didn’t give up, that would mean losing money.

Instead, the companies began to use scientists to help them formulate the most addictive products possible. They have investigated the perfect amount of sugar, salt, color, and taste that would make their product impossible to not come back to again. Soda like Dr. Pepper began to come out with different colors and flavors that would attract new customers and keep their regular consumers around. Even sauce for spaghetti started to be recreated with more sugar, salt and fat but not too much because the right amount left customers satisfied and addicted.

With the rise of childhood obesity it’s painful to watch our country’s health fall to pieces due to the cruel motives of these major corporations. Snacks, chips, sodas and most products you find in stores or gas stations are processed foods made with the goal of over-consumption. Growing up with health conscious parents who both graduated with their masters in education at SUNY New Paltz, I noticed the junk food that my friends would eat at lunch time from an early age. Although I didn’t know exactly what was corrupt about it, I could tell something was wrong.

My dad would use the term “junk food junkie” as someone that I should never be. On Halloween I would go trick or treating with my friends and he would only let me keep 10 candies of my choice. At the time I would get so upset about it, but now I really appreciate it. I remember my friends getting huge bags of M & M’s for Easter, huge Chocolate Bunny rabbits and tons of starbursts. Lunchables were in when I was in middle school and I saw almost all of my friends coming in with at least one Lunchable package a week if not every day. It was obviously the easy way to pack your kids lunch, and exactly what they wanted to taste. I had to beg my parents to even cook chicken or a burger once a week but after awhile they gave in.

It was depressing seeing my friends enjoying whatever they wanted regardless of the sugar, salt or fat content. Even still, my parents didn’t know everything. After reaching a certain age, I began to realise how much they had helped me out. I started to research on my own the effects of sugar and I couldn’t believe that even organic companies like nature’s promise would put so much sugar in their drinks. My dad put a little bit of lemonade in his water everyday and swore that it was okay but I noticed his irritability and started to connect the dots. After awhile he heard me out and dropped the lemonade for good. It’s crazy how much sugar makes a difference in a drink. I remember chugging juice as a kid and not knowing why I couldn’t stop until I felt sick, always coming back for more.

Recently, my ex girlfriend of three years showed me even more of what the evil role the soft drink & food industry plays on our life. Her mom, addicted to coca-cola advocated that food is just something you should get over and done with as fast as possible. She would say that food is food and one should get it over with and get on with their day. Her daughter being younger was more conscious but still wanted to eat chips every night and for awhile ice cream while watching a movie. It was cute at the time but now it’s upsetting knowing that these junk foods are designed to keep us buying them night after night. Her mom’s on the verge of diabetes and it makes me very sad knowing that it’s not really her fault. She’s trying her best and I really hope she can get off the soda pop.

Re-reading the New York Times article, I took a break to get a drink at the SUB and I noticed that they were out of the unsweetened 100% pure coconut water they usually have. They replaced it with “lightly toasted coconut flavored water”. Reading the ingredients, I noticed they sneaked in stevia a form of sweetener that converts to sugar in the body but doesn’t show up in the sugar content of the drink. Now looking for a drink that was truly sugar-less it was almost impossible. The only other option besides sparkling water was unsweetened ice tea which seemed to be hidden amongst the other teas loaded with sugar.

Two girls were behind me trying to get water. One said “why do they only have this sparkling water bull****.” I was sad to already know the answer. Her friend replied innocently “Because it’s bad for the environment, they want you to use reusables.” It became clear just how involved the food/drink industry is in our daily lives. The answer was clear. The girl wanted water but saw the excess of sparkling water options and felt disappointed. That disappointment then triggered a reaction to reward herself with a vitaminwater advertised as healthy with vitamins but really full of sugar, artificial colors and flavors. SUNY New Paltz being environmentally proactive is a great thing but part of me thinks the problem is deeper than that.

I believe there are corporate leaders controlling the products available to students at universities. I witnessed a student craving spring water and then having to resort to Vitaminwater with an even thicker bottle than a regular Poland Spring. It’s awesome if we are trying to reduce and reuse but I’m not sure if keeping bottled water off campus is the ends to all means. In retrospect, most bottled water sold at places like schools are just purified tap water like Dasani and Aquafina with an acidic ph comparable to Gatorade. I hope that one day we can have spring water or purified water with balanced alkaline ph available at our schools so less people get sick. There has to be another way to help reduce waste and keep plastic out of our oceans.

When possible corporate influence leads students into filling up on sugary drinks and comprising their health and potential studies for the benefit of the vendor, it really makes me think. Is the environment really the main concern here or is it just a cover up for this huge money making scandal. Students are prime targets of addictive junk food, especially with all of the stress and growing pains. I hope we can advance as a school and overcoming the major corporations. We should realistically ban all sugary drinks in schools but at this point it might be too late. Hopefully there is a way we can make a difference through interviews and steps that gives a voice to our student body. Snacks and processed food availability should be limited, instead we should promote the sale of fresh fruits and veggies from local farms.


  1. Moss, Michael. “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.” The New York Times, 20 Feb. 2013, pp. 1–20.

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Is junk food designed to be addictive?
The fact is junk food stimulates the reward system in the brain in the same way as addictive drugs , such as cocaine. For susceptible people, eating junk food can lead to full-blown addiction, which shares the same biological basis as drug addiction ( 1 ).
What are the 3 pillars of addictive foods?
No salt, no sugar and no fat , simply means no sale. Why? Because the industry is more addicted to these 3 pillars of processed food than the consumer is. You see, without salt, sugar, fat the industry itself would cease to exist.
What is the argument of the extraordinary science of addictive junk food?
Stacey Avelar Expository Writing Professor Raia-Hawrylak 8 September 2015 The Lure of Junk Food In Michael Moss' “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” he argues that companies have a huge influence on what consumers purchase and have been successfully able to get people addicted to junk foods because one's
What is the most addictive junk food?
Snack Attack: The 10 Most Addictive Junk Foods Chips. Cookies. Ice cream. French fries. Nondiet soda. Cake. Cheeseburgers. Muffins.
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