Victorino Matus reviews The Dorito Effect in the Wall Street Journal:
In ‘Tuesdays With Saddam,’ a 2005 essay for GQ, writer Lisa DePaolo interviewed the Pennsylvania National Guardsmen assigned to watch over Saddam Hussein in 2004 prior to his trial before the Iraqi Special Tribunal in October 2005. The prisoner reportedly preferred chicken over beef, marinated his olives with Italian dressing and drank all his beverages at room temperature. Also, “he was nuts about Cheetos,” writes Ms. DePaolo. “One of the guardsmen turned him on to them, and before long he would get grumpy if they ran out (so they started to order extra from the mess hall).” Then he discovered Doritos and “he never went back.” He called them “doris” and would devour a family-size bag in 10 minutes.
Not even a fearsome dictator could stop at just one. But why? Mark Schatzker, the author of “The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor,” compares our need to eat chip after chip of artificial goodness to addiction—“a disease of craving” not so different from nicotine or narcotics dependency. “Salt, sugar, and fat are what psychologists call reinforcers,” he writes. “They trigger bursts of the potent neurotransmitters and activate the same brain circuitry as heroin and cocaine.”
Doritos started out in the 1960s as a taco chip with a mere 11 ingredients. Now such varieties as Jacked Ranch Dipped Hot Wings list 34. (This calls to mind the Onion headline: “Doritos Celebrates One Millionth Ingredient.”) Each chip is specifically engineered to contain as much of that irresistible flavor as possible. But, as we all know, that irresistible flavor lacks much nutritional value.
This is the problem that Mr. Schatzker addresses: “In nature, there is an intimate connection between flavor and nutrition,” he writes. In other words, what tastes good is good for you. Take fruit, for example. In nature, if you see a sign on the “highway of nutrition” for grapes, “you’ll get to a place with lots of vitamins C and K, some thiamin and riboflavin and potassium, fiber, sugar, and all manner of plant secondary compounds,” the author writes. On the other hand, “at the supermarket, the same sign—grape—takes your body to Grapeade, a place with no fiber and a bit of vitamin C, but that packs a serious hit of sugar.”
Whole thing here.