The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor

The book is about the idea that the flavor is the guide for living organisms to identify the right food that they need. The book presents many interesting examples of how animals including human can intuitively identify nutritional foods when the options don’t have artificial flavoring, as well as scientific studies that show the flavors tend to be linked to the original nutrients (e.g., essential amino acid Phenylalanine is used to create 2 phenylethanol in plants; see Goff2006plant and Tieman2006tomato).


We eat for one reason: because we love the way food tastes. Flavor is the original craving.


The Dorito Effect, very simply, is what happens when food gets blander and flavor technology gets better.


“Goats’ refusal of young blackbrush shoots, furthermore, is outright. They want nothing to do with it. Provenza pointed at his hand, then his arm and body, and said, “Every organ and every cell has receptors similar to what’s in your nose and on your tongue.” Creatures communicate within their environment the same way they communicate within their own bodies – through chemical trigger substances that bind to receptors and produce responses. “It’s all part of a feedback system,” Provenza said, “that tells the body what’s good and what isn’t.”
Goats are not stupid after all. They don’t bumble through the world eating what they were born to like. They experience need states, satisfaction, and delight along with aversions to strong a mere hint of something can make them turn away in disgust. Flavor is what nutrition feels like to a goat.
If goats had a word for delicious, it would have two meanings. The first would be: I like this. The second would be: This is what my body needs. For goats, they are the same thing.”


Modern food may be the most compelling lie humans have ever told.


In nature, flavor never appears without nutrition. No morsel of food should pass your lips before you have asked the following question: Where did the flavor come from? If it came from the plant or animal you’re eating, keep eating. If it was applied by a human with a PhD in chemistry, put it down.”


So let’s review all the ways the Dorito Effect appears to be turning us into nutritional idiots:

• Dilution. As real food becomes bland and loses its capacity to please us, we are less inclined to eat it and very often enhance it in ways that further blunt its nutrition.

• Nutritional decapitation. When we take flavors from nature, we capture the experience of food but leave the nutrition—the fiber, the vitamins, the minerals, the antioxidants, the plant secondary compounds—behind. In nature, flavor compounds always appear in a nutritional context.

• False variety. We naturally crave variety in food—it’s one of nature’s ways of making sure we get a diverse diet. Fake flavors make foods that are nutritionally very similar seem more different than they actually are.

• Cognitive deception. Fake flavors fool the conscious mind. A mother enticed by a Dannon Strawberry Blitz Smoothie as an after-school snack for her eight-year-old child will taste it and reasonably believe the product contains strawberries, even though it contains none.

• Emotional deception. Flavor technology manipulates the part of the mind that experiences feelings. Fake flavors take a previously established liking for a real food and apply it, like a sticker, to something else—usually large doses of calories—creating a heightened and nutritionally undeserved level of pleasure.

• Flavor-nutrient confusion. By hijacking flavor-nutrient relationships, fake flavors, by their very nature, set a false expectation. A major aspect of obesity is an outsized desire for food, one that very often cannot be extinguished by food itself. By imposing flavors on foods without the corresponding nutrients, are we creating foods that are incapable of satiating the people who eat them? So many of the foods we overconsume—refined carbs, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, added fat—would not be palatable without synthetic flavor. We gorge on them because they taste like something they are not.