Food from tobacco-owned brands more ‘hyperpalatable’, study finds

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A new study conducted at the University of Kansas and published in the journal Addiction reveals an unsettling link between tobacco companies and the proliferation of “hyperpalatable” foods in the United States.

These foods, loaded with fats, sugars, and salts, are engineered to be irresistibly tasty but are also associated with health problems, including obesity.

The Role of Tobacco Companies

In the late 20th century, many tobacco companies diversified their portfolios by investing heavily in the food industry.

According to lead author Tera Fazzino, these tobacco-owned food brands were more likely to produce foods classified as hyperpalatable, compared to those not owned by tobacco companies.

Specifically, between 1988 and 2001, tobacco-owned foods were 29% more likely to be fat-and-sodium hyperpalatable and 80% more likely to be carbohydrate-and-sodium hyperpalatable.

Impact on the American Diet

According to the study, a shocking 68% of the American food supply now consists of hyperpalatable foods.

Not only are these foods ubiquitous, but they are also relatively cheap compared to healthier options like fresh fruits and vegetables.

The study suggests that the infiltration of hyperpalatable foods into the American food system is not merely coincidental but may be the result of deliberate formulation by companies with a vested interest in addictive consumer behaviors.

Health Consequences

The overconsumption of hyperpalatable foods can lead to obesity and other related health issues. These foods can “trick” the brain’s reward system and disrupt signals that indicate fullness, making it easier to overeat.

Fazzino argues that the situation isn’t just about personal choices but also about how these foods are formulated to encourage excessive consumption.

Regulatory Implications

Fazzino suggests that one way to counter this would be to regulate the formulations of food that are designed to induce sustained eating. The concept of hyperpalatability could serve as a metric for these regulations.

Legacy of Tobacco Companies

Even though many tobacco companies have divested from the food industry since the early to mid-2000s, their influence appears to linger, with a large proportion of the American diet still consisting of hyperpalatable foods.


The study calls attention to the pressing need for a closer look at the relationship between corporate interests and public health.

As the lines between the tobacco and food industries blur, understanding this connection becomes crucial in tackling health crises related to diet and obesity.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about Ultraprocessed foods – like cookies, chips, frozen meals and fast food – may contribute to cognitive decline and findings of High-salt diet strongly changes your kidneys.

For more information about food and health, please read studies that vitamin D can help reduce inflammation, and vitamin K may lower your heart disease risk by a third.

The research findings can be found in Addiction.

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