Nutrient Bliss Points: The Formula for Addictive Food

In the 1970s, Howard (Howie) Moskowitz revolutionised the processed food industry by identifying the perfect bliss points for sugar, salt and fat. 

By quantifying these bliss points with mathematical precision, he weaponised the arms race to create the most hyperpalatable, profitable and addictive foods.  Fifty years later, all food manufacturers understand how to simultaneously hit all the bliss points.

But what if I told you that we have a bliss point for each of the macronutrients and micronutrients beyond salt, sugar and fat?

These bliss point intakes for the essential nutrients represent the minimum your body craves.  They also align with maximum food intake.  

What is the Bliss Point in Food? 

The bliss point in food is the perfect concentration of a nutrient in a food that maximises its palatability. 

Moskowitz conducted experiments with focus groups to determine the bliss points for sugar, fat and salt.   He turned food into math to design the most tasty and profitable foods.  Moskowitz found the perfect ‘Goldilocks’ zone for different that light up our senses — not too little, not too much. 

As we’ve dug deeper into the nutrient data, we’ve noticed this ‘inverted U-shaped curve’ (Wundt curve), not just for sugar, fat and salt, but for all the essential nutrients!  These insights could be (and probably already are) used to create ultra-processed foods for maximum profit. 

But, we can also use these insights to optimise our diet for greater satiety to empower Optimisers to win the war with their cravings and ‘food addiction’.   

Bliss Point for Sodium

To illustrate how the Bliss Point works, the chart below shows the amount we eat using varying concentrations of sodium.  In the middle of the chart, we have a Bliss Point for sodium at 2.9 g/2000 calories, where we eat the most. 

  • When our food contains less sodium, it tastes bland, and we crave saltier foods. 
  • But once we exceed this amount, our food tastes ‘too salty,’ so we eat less. 
satiety / bliss point chart for sodium

Bliss Point for Macronutrients

The chart below shows the Bliss Points for each macronutrient together. 

satiety / bliss point chart for macronutrients

We see that overeating is not simplistically due to excess consumption of one macronutrient.  Instead, we eat more when our food contains the perfect combination of macronutrients that our bodies crave, i.e.: 

  • 12.5% protein, 
  • 37% fat and,
  • 47% carbohydrates.

As our food has become more processed, we have gravitated towards the macronutrient Bliss Points.  The average American consumes:

  • 15.5% protein,
  • 33% fat, and
  • 51% carbohydrate.

Like filling a hybrid car with gas and electricity simultaneously, food that contains the perfect blend of carbs and fat enables us to fill the glucose and fat fuel tanks in our bodies more rapidly.  This rapid burst of energy from fat and carbs gives us a bigger dopamine hit than fat or carbs alone

You can think of this as nature’s optimal fat gain setting that leads us to eat and store the most to survive an impending winter.  But today, these foods are available 24/7/365 and are designed to be impossible to resist.  

Diet Quality Bliss Point

When we dive into the data, we see that it’s not just salt, protein, and fat that we have a bliss point for. Each essential nutrient seems to have a bliss point that aligns with eating more. If you want to dive into the data, check out these articles:

Foods containing minimal nutrients taste bland, so we eat less. But nutrient-rich foods have a stronger taste. Our body knows we need less of them to get enough nutrients (Forde, 2016).

But when we consider all the essential nutrients together, we also see a bliss point at a diet quality score of 45%. Moving from the bliss point to a 100% diet quality score aligns with a 37% reduction in energy intake, which is even larger than the satiety response to a higher protein %.

Our Learned Appetite for Micronutrients

Did you know your appetite works like a nutrient-seeking missile that searches for foods containing your priority nutrients? 

While we don’t have a strong conscious taste for minerals the way we do for protein, fat, salt and sugar, it appears we may have a learned appetite for the nutritional value of our food.  

Through repeated exposure, our bodies know how much of a particular food they need to get the required nutrients.  Thus, we get a reinforcing dopamine hit after consuming these foods.

Bliss Point for Minerals

The table below shows each mineral’s Bliss Points (per 2000 calories) and Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) or Adequate Intake (AI).  For more details, see Unlocking the Secrets of Minerals: The Hidden Power Behind Our Hunger and Cravings.

mineralsBliss PointDRI or AIunit

Intriguingly, the Bliss Point is eerily similar to the DRI or AI for many of these nutrients.  However, the Bliss Point is higher than the DRI for manganese, phosphorus, selenium and sodium.  So, if we treat the DRI as a target, we may have subtle cravings for more food to get the required nutrients. 

Bliss Point for Vitamins

The table below shows the Bliss Point for each vitamin that aligns with the maximum energy intake.  For more details, see The Role of Vitamins in Satiety and Weight Management.

vitaminsBliss Point DRI or AIunit
thiamine (B1)1.31.2mg
riboflavin (B2)1.41.3mg
niacin (B3)1816mg
vitamin B53.95.0mg
vitamin B61.51.3mg
vitamin (B12)3.62.4mcg
vitamin A400900mcg
vitamin C5590mg
vitamin E715mg
vitamin K155120mcg

For the vitamins, we see that the Bliss Point is greater than the DRI For vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12.   Hence, although our cravings for the vitamins may be more subtle than for protein, merely targeting the DRIs may leave us craving more food to get the vitamins our bodies crave.

Fortification: A Double-Edged Sword?

Ultra-processed foods are often fortified with synthetic vitamins to account for the lack of nutrients. 

Intriguingly, when we look at the nutrient data for ultra-processed foods, we find they’re not exactly nutrient-poor.  Instead, they contain just enough of all the essential nutrients to hit the bliss point and drive us to eat more. 

fortified breakfast cereals, designed to hit our bliss points

In addition to artificial flavours and colourings, these synthetic supplements may make these foods taste much more appealing than meat and seafood, which naturally contain these nutrients. 

How Can I Reduce My Consumption of Bliss Point Foods?  

Avoid Processed Foods

Avoiding packaged foods with a blend of sugar, refined starch, and seed oils is a great place to start.  Also, any packaged food listing artificial flavours, colours and fortification is a dead giveaway that that food was engineered to hit your Bliss Points to make you eat more. 

Avoid Fat and Carb Combo Foods

Natural foods provide energy primarily from fat or carbohydrates, not both simultaneously.   So, if you’re trying to eat less to lose weight, try to minimise adding fat to carbs to create delicious recipes (e.g. fried rice, pasta carbonara or baked goods that contain butter and flour).  

Prioritise Protein at Every Meal

Protein dominates the satiety equation, so ensure you get protein at every meal.  More protein will leave you more satiated and less prone to snacking on less optimal foods between meals.  In our Macros Masterclass, we guide our Optimisers to dial their protein % by prioritising protein and incrementally dialling back fat. 

If you’re currently consuming an average of 15% protein, you could work up to 20% protein.  Most people don’t need to make it to our Optimal Nutrient Intake of 40% protein to see sustainable weight loss results. 

Increase Nutrient Density

Once you’ve laid the foundation with adequate protein, you can focus on getting more of each of the micronutrients per calorie. 

In our Micros Masterclass, we guide Optimisers to work towards our Optimal Nutrient Intake (numbers exceeding the DRI/AI) for each mineral and vitamin to augment their satiety further and give their body everything it needs more efficiently. 


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