Your Brain Loves Soda

Michael Moss, with the New York Times Magazine, recently wrote an utterly compelling article called “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.” An excerpt from his new book, Moss’s article explains the success of processed food giants in tapping into our brain’s most basic desires. Essentially, he explains, the portion of our brains still attuned to the necessities of survival constantly crave fat, salt, and sugar. However, more is not necessarily better. There is a sort of sweet spot or “bliss point” that triggers just the right amount of pleasure in the brain without overwhelming it with one of those three essentials. 

One of the examples Moss uses is soda and, more specifically, Dr. Pepper. I think that soda/colas are an interesting test case, as they are about as far away from a naturally occurring food as it gets. Perhaps because it is so clearly artificial already, food scientists and marketers seem willing to screw with it even more.

Cue, a list of the weirdest colas I could find on the internet:

  • Of course my ears perk up when I hear about people adding wheat to weird things. Pepsi Special, which is now sold only in Japan, contains the wheat-based product dextrin, a source of dietary fiber. This fiber’s supposedly weight-loss inducing properties allow the soda to be labeled “Food for Specialized Health Uses” in Japan.

pepsi special

  • You know how… in the morning…you wake up, and you say, “Juice? Again?? If only I could just skip the next five hours til noon and have a soda.” Well, fret no more. Mountain Dew is now trying to break into the breakfast market with Kickstart, a Mountain Dew based drink combined with orange juice and caffeine. Good morning!
  • Crystal Pepsi. Like Pepsi, but completely clear and, according to 90s marketing campaigns, “healthier.” I’m really interested in the idea of perception of a food – it’s color, appearance – either working with or against it’s taste and therefore successfulness. According to Moss’s article, adding too much of Dr. Pepper’s patented syrup makes the drink too dark and unappetizing to test drinkers. So apparently there is also a sort of “sweet spot” in terms of visual “consumption” of the drink? Not too light, and not too dark?

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