The Science Behind Salt, Sugar, Fat and “The Bliss Point”

As you read this, there is a team of scientists constructing a new recipe for some product even more mouthwatering and irresistible than anything you have ever tasted. If you ask me, the fact that scientists are wasting their talents developing recipes is crazy. The truth of the matter is actually far from insane and when looking at the money behind these food manufacturers, it’s brilliant. In a world where technology and profit reign supreme, the food industry remains on the cutting edge of developing foods that their consumers will unknowingly come back to for second or third helpings. Food manufacturers are using sugar, salt and fat in perfect scientific combinations to yield addictive qualities in their products. Science has proven that formulating a product with a precise ratio of fat, sugar and salt can trick the brain into craving that product over a healthy food with proper nutrition. This perfect balance of fat, sugar and salt is known as the Bliss Point.

Howard Moskowitz was the first to discover the Bliss Point and the impact it could have on formulating new products. This scientific approach cut out massive amounts of time and money when developing new products. Manufacturers would spend considerable amounts of resources on consumer taste tests. Then they would take the results and tweak and swap ingredients to improve flavor and increase chances for creating a popular product. Now, food manufacturers have a precise ratio of ingredients that can be used to trick the brain and taste buds into driving consumption of more of their products. The science is based on the way taste buds interpret foods based on survival. This taste for survival dates back to hunter-gatherer days. When a nutrient-dense food source was found, the brain ensured it would be consumed by releasing pleasure-inducing endorphins when the ratio of fat, salt and sugar was correct. The brain logged these foods that produced positive feelings and would induce cravings, thus making sure that food was given priority and consumed in the future. The true role of the Bliss Point is a means for survival based on the brain’s interpretation of taste. The problem is that now we no longer live in a hunter-gatherer society and food is readily available for most of us, the Bliss Point is now leveraged as subconscious marketing tool for the food industry.

There is no lack of sugar, salt or fat in most of our diets these days. Because of this, our taste buds and the way our brains interpret sugar, salt and fat has changed. Sensitivity to the Bliss Point has dulled and there is nothing put in place to stop us from overeating. Now, the brain’s reward system reacts positively to overindulging in foods with zero nutritional content but are loaded with sugar, salt and fat. This can be very dangerous for some of us and food manufacturers know this. The end goal for food scientists is to develop a product that no one can eat just one of, literally.