The Science of Food Addiction: The Nutrient Bliss Point Hypothesis

My 17-year-old son recently asked, “Based on your nutrient bliss point theory, what are the most addictive foods?”

I usually like to use our data-driven systems for good and not evil.  But, in this article, I want to show you how you could use the nutrient bliss point theory of obesity to intentionally create an obesogenic diet that would leave you unsatisfied and wanting more. 

But don’t worry; at the end, we’ll also show you how to pack in more nutrients to crush your cravings with less energy. 

The Nutrient Bliss Point Theory of Obesity

So, what is the nutrient bliss point theory of obesity? 

Fifty years ago, Howie Moskowitz worked out how to hit the bliss points for sugar, fat and salt with processed foods to create hyperpalatable, ultra-profitable processed foods.  He turned recipe creation into a maths. 

Since then, the diabesity epidemic hasn’t slowed to take a breath.  Now, it appears that processed food manufacturers have also worked out how to make their creations hit the bliss points for ALL the other essential nutrients to make their foods even more addictive and profitable

Understanding exactly what it is about ultra-processed foods so addictive and damaging to our metabolism is still an open question. I hypothesise that at least part of the answer is that the foods we find seductive give us just enough of each of the essential nutrients to keep us interested but not enough to satisfy us, so we eat a lot more.   

Ultra-processed foods flirt with our appetite for nutrients but never quite deliver the goods.

Foods with minimal nutrients (e.g. plain sugar, flour, rice, oil, etc) taste bland, so we don’t overeat them.  The most nutrient-dense foods, however, have a strong taste that tells our body we only need a little to get the nutrients we crave.   Meanwhile, the nutrient bliss point is the Goldilocks zone, providing enough nutrients to maximise taste, growth and intake (not to mention profit for food manufacturers). 

In our Micros Masterclass, we create Your Perfect Day reports for Optimisers to show them how to move towards the Optimal Nutrient Intakes to increase nutrient density and satiety

But, as you’ll see in this article, we can also reverse the process to create a shortlist of foods to minimise satiety so you’ll feel ‘addicted to food’.  This might be great if you’re a bulking bodybuilder or a bear preparing for your annual winter hibernation, but it’s not so great for most of us who want to be a bit leaner to improve our metabolic health. 

The Top 12 Most Fattening Foods

The image below shows the top twelve most obesogenic foods that, when combined, would have you eating all day.  This combination selection of foods gets as close as possible to the bliss points for all thirty-four essential nutrients (i.e. vitamins, minerals, amino acids and omega 3). 

The table below shows the quantities required to create a 2000-calorie day that hits the bliss point nutrient intakes.  At the top of the table, you can see that most calories come from the brioche bread, waffles, risotto and peanut butter.  Interestingly, the algorithm added a small serving of orange juice to hit the bliss point for vitamin C. 

Foodenergy (cal)energy (%)
brioche bread31115.5%
peanut butter1899.5%
potato chips1859.3%
popcorn (with fat)1688.4%
taco shell1587.9%
Ritz crackers1296.5%
corn tortilla1165.8%
rice cake874.4%
orange juice683.4%

Macronutrients – Bliss Point Foods

Looking at the infographic above, many might think this looks like a ‘high carb diet’.  But, as shown in the table below, it has a similar blend of energy from fat (42%) and non-fibre carbohydrates (45%). 

net carb22645%906

It’s fascinating that targeting the micronutrient bliss points yields a mix of macros eerily close to the macronutrient bliss points  from our analysis of 836k days of data:

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

I love it when different approaches align.  Whether we simply think in terms of avoiding fat+carb combo foods that hit the macro bliss points or dive a little deeper to avoid foods that have just enough minerals, vitamins and amino acids to hit the micronutrient bliss points, we arrive at the same place. 

Micronutrient Fingerprint – Bliss Point Foods

The micronutrient fingerprint chart for these foods is not great, but it’s not exactly nutrient-poor.  These foods provide just enough nutrients to ensure that the food is not bland but not satisfying.  These foods are flirting with our taste buds, making promises they never really follow through on.

How We Created The Most Fattening Foods

To create this selection of Franken foods, I took the 450 popular foods consumed by our Optimisers and shortlisted the 100 least nutrient-dense foods.  I then kept eliminating foods to achieve a shortlist of 12 foods, with just the right serving sizes, to hit the bliss point nutrient intakes.

Some foods that nearly made the shortlist of twelve foods were cookies, doughnuts, cheesecake, M&Ms, Hershey’s Kisses, chocolate milk, etc. These foods might be more seductive if more of your diet is minimally processed whole foods.  

I also took a dive into the thirteen thousand foods in the USDA database to see which foods tend to hit the bliss points nutrient targets.  Human breast milk is pretty much the only natural food that comes close.  Everything else that provides just the right amount of nutrients to make us eat more and grow is formulated junk food. 

How to Build a Successful Multi-National For-Profit Processed Food Company

If you wanted to make a ton of profit and didn’t care about ruining the metabolic health of every human on the planet, you’d start with the cheapest raw ingredients you could find, like

  • fat: vegetable oils (e.g. palm, canola, sunflower),
  • sugar: cane, beet or high fructose corn, and
  • carbs: corn starch or refined flour.

The problem with this Frankenstein creation would be that it would be completely unpalatable and look awful; you’d need to add some flavours and colours. 

But because it was so nutrient-poor, it would taste bland, so you’d need to add some synthetic nutrients to make sure we didn’t get bored of these foods and go in search of foods that naturally contain the nutrients we require. 

To make this super cheap processed gloop more palatable with just enough of some of the nutrients we crave, let’s add some:

  • salt,
  • niacin,
  • riboflavin,
  • thiamine,
  • iron,
  • folic acid and
  • yeast extract to boost those B vitamins a little more.

Viola.  Now you’ve got an ultra-cheap, binge-worthy, hyper-palatable ‘food’ product that will sell like hotcakes and keep the shareholders happy.  It might even help us combat those pesky GLP-1 agonist drugs that everyone is taking these days that are cutting into the bottom line. 

Let’s call it Ritz Bits! 

But seriously, next time you venture into the centre isles of your supermarket, look at the ingredients list to see how many of the packaged foods you can find that follow this basic formula:

refined oils + refined starch + flavours & colourings + fortified vitamins and iron

They even dare to brag that they’re ‘a great source of nutrients’ when they add just enough of super cheap synthetic nutrients to hit our nutrient bliss points, so we keep eating and buying more!

Do you think Nestle and Kellanova (previously Kelloggs) are adding nutrient supplements to their breakfast cereal for your health benefit or their bottom line? 

Nutritious Foods

Now for the good news.  We don’t have to be stuck in the perpetual process of eating more than we need to get the nutrients we require. 

Once we understand how food manufacturers have created addictive ultra-processed foods, we can reverse-engineer the formula.  All we need to do is get out of the craving zone, move past the bliss point and pack more of the essential nutrients we need. 

I’ve reversed the process to create the most nutrient-dense day of eating.   The infographic below shows the shortlist of foods popular with our optimisers that empowers us to hit the Optimal Nutrient Intakes

The table below shows the quantities of each food required to hit the Optimal Nutrient Intakes.  

Food energy (cal)energy (%)
salmon 38719.4%
Brussels sprouts1507.5%
sirloin steak1326.6%
cottage cheese1246.2%
green peas1105.5%
butternut squash723.6%

While you could go ahead and use this as your daily diet, it’s better to start with the foods you currently eat all the time.  Rather than jumping from a junk food diet to a 100% diet quality score, we always find it’s better to level up incrementally.  It becomes a game of personalised nutrition, where, instead of deprivation and restriction, it’s all about giving your body the nutrients it needs to thrive. 

In our Macros Masterclass, we show Optimisers how to increase their intake of foods they already eat to increase satiety.   In our Micros Masterclass, we use the Your Perfect Day report to show our Optimisers how to tweak their current diet to get more nutrients they need from foods they already enjoy. 

Micronutrient Fingerprint – Nutrient Dense Foods

The micronutrient fingerprint chart below shows that we hit nearly all the Optimal Nutrient Intake targets with this selection of foods. 

A common side effect of packing more of all the essential nutrients into your energy budget is increased energy levels and decreased appetite.  These foods are incredibly satiating and almost impossible to overeat!

Navigating the Nutritional Landscape for Better Health

This article illuminates the stark contrast between foods designed to hit the micronutrient bliss points and those that optimize nutrient density.  We’ve seen how certain foods, rich in sugar, fat, and salt, are engineered to be hyper-palatable yet low in satiety, leading to overconsumption and potential health risks.  This approach, driven by the allure of taste and addiction, contributes significantly to the current diabesity epidemic.

On the flip side, we’ve explored the power of nutrient-dense foods that satisfy hunger and provide the essential nutrients our bodies crave.  This strategy, focusing on maximising your nutrient intake per calorie, offers a path to improved health, increased energy levels, and reduced appetite.   

Understanding the impact of the nutrient bliss points helps us avoid traps set by hyper-palatable foods while embracing nutrient-dense options for a more balanced and healthful diet.  This approach nourishes our bodies and aligns with sustainable, long-term health and wellness.


2 thoughts on “The Science of Food Addiction: The Nutrient Bliss Point Hypothesis”

  1. Op de pc heb ik de cronometer. Deze wil ik ook op mijn gsm zetten maar dat lukt niet opdat mijn mailadres al gebruikt is. Het zou makkelijk zijn als je met t zelfde mail en ww in kon loggen op een 2e apparaat. Met vr groet

    • You should be able to log in to your various devices with the same account details. Just make sure you’re logging in rather than signing up for a new account when you’re on your phone.

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