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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Why Does Fast Food Taste So Good?

by Sarah Clark (ILEX)

Fast food is so popular across the world, that there has to be a reason for it. It must taste great? Well, although some people who aren’t fans of fast food might disagree, saying that fast food actually tastes of salt or fat, most people who eat it are only too happy to agree that the taste is what keeps them going back for more. Not only is it quick and easy, but another reason this type of meal is so popular is because they just enjoy eating it!

45% of people in the UK who took part in a 2008 survey said that they liked the taste of fast food so much that they didn’t think they would be able to give it up, even if they wanted to. This puts the UK ahead of even America, although 44% of the Americans surveyed loved their fast food just as much.

So Why Does Fast Food Taste Good?

The taste of fast food is carefully controlled, and a lot of the flavours you pick up while chewing on that burger meal are there for a very good reason – and not natural. If you enjoy strawberry milkshakes, you’ll be horrified to know that the version you buy in a popular burger chain contains nothing that’s been in the vicinity of a strawberry, and in fact the ‘strawberry flavour’ which is just one of the ingredients on the shake’s list, contains over twenty different chemicals in its own right.

If you enjoy the taste of French fries from McDonalds – until recently they were all fried in beef dripping to give them their ‘distinctive taste’ and also added so much fat that percentage wise the fries contained more fat than a hamburger. They stopped this practice in the 1990s and switched to vegetable oil, but even this has been a problem due to trans-fat levels. McDonalds and many other chains are pledging to cut the trans-fat levels in their cooking oils but will this affect the taste?

The Fat, Sugar And Salt Combination

Research carried out in the United States shed some more light on why people can’t leave the burgers alone. If you thought it was just because they were lazy and fancied a quick bite to eat rather than cooking dinner, you could be wrong.

Apparently some people get addicted to the taste of popular fast food because it contains just the right mixture of fat, sugar and salt to set off the pleasure chemicals in the brain. Experiments carried out on lab rats showed that when they were fed a diet that consisted of 25% sugar – and then the sugar is removed, the rats become anxious, their teeth start to chatter and they suffer with the shakes - not unlike people going through a nicotine or morphine withdrawal.

The researchers also noticed long lasting changes in brain chemistry of rats fed with foods that had a combination of sweet, salt and fat in, which led them to conclude that there was a possibility that people too could see brain changes – and become physically addicted to eating fast food.

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