THE FUTURE OF FOOD IN THE ERA OF OBESITY
By many predictions, nearly all of us in this country will soon be overweight or obese. We are certainly well on our way thanks to a complex set of conditions that collectively produce the “obesogenic environment”. This certainly includes not only school, work and play lives that have deemphasized physical activity in favor or more sedentary paths and screen time. It also however stems perhaps most clearly from increased consumption of increasingly delicious and inexpensive, high carbohydrate, high calorie obesogenic foods. The purveyors of food have considerately catered to our burgeoning appetites and tastes, obliging us with ever-larger portions of focus group tested, perfectly delicious meals, snacks and treats that pack a wallop and deposit huge amounts of fat to our bellies and thighs to name a few places.
All of the science that has been applied to creating the obesogenic foods has been very successful. Let’s face it, foods today are available more quickly, they seem “fresher”, they clearly taste better and we want more and more of them. These foods have the advantage of science technology in their ingredients and preparation. They also benefit from modern understanding of supply chain, preservation and fulfillment. But what about the food of the future in the obese world in which we live?
I would like to advance the radical idea that the same background of scientific and technological innovation can and will supply foods that are aimed specifically at providing weight loss and weight maintenance while achieving goals of satiety, deliciousness and satisfaction in the consumer. For example, an increasing array of rather tasty snacks, drinks and foods is slowly becoming available in corners of the food producing world like medically supervised weight loss programs. The foods are scientifically based and effectively designed to suppress appetite rather than encourage it to promote less consumption of calories rather than more, and to help the consumer achieve success in the mission of losing weight and improving health rather than the mission of selling more burgers.
So will these “foods of the future” catch on? One imagines a George Jetson-like household in which buttons are pushed and a dispensary offers up a nifty high metabolic protein shake and everyone smiles happily rubbing their skinny tummies. This is likely to be the case for a tiny minority of people who see it as in their personal best interest to avoid overconsumption of calories and carbohydrates. For the rest of us however, food is much more than nourishment for the body. It is pleasure, it is comfort and so much more. So while the foods will be there, the mindset that will allow the foods to work – that is help us become healthier individuals with trimmer waistlines – we must become more knowledgeable, more educated and more personally devoted to the cause. And a cause, by necessity, involves giving up things like hot, crispy French fries and specialty ice cream, made-to-order sundaes is going to be a tough sell.