Tag Archives: pizza

These are the droids we’re looking for: A new robot can assemble a pizza in under a minute

Food-making robots have been promised for a long time. Now, they’re finally entering the stage.

The PizzaBot 5000 (or “PB5K”). Credit: Lab2Fab.

The PizzaBot 5000 can spread cheese, sauce, and pepperoni on a pizza, preparing it for a human or another robot to place it in the oven. It uses large containers for the cheese and sauce and a stick of pepperoni that can be cut in custom sizes. Everything is refrigerated to keep the food safe.

According to The Spoon, the PizzaBot was unveiled by Lab2Fab, a division of Middleby Corporation, at the Smart Kitchen Summit. The appeal of the robot is that as long as it has ingredients, it can work non stop, using sensors for precise ingredient usage, reducing food waste and costs.

This isn’t the first robot of this type. Another pizza-making machine by Picnic was recently announced. The Picnic robot is modular, which means it can add as many ingredients as there are modules, which makes it more customizable (even for foods other than pizza). The drawback is that it’s bulkier.

So how much would a pizza-making robot cost? The price estimate for the PizzaBot 5000 is around $70,000. Not exactly cheap, but then again, you can bake a thousand pizzas a day with it if you want

Pizza study shows one big meal isn’t as bad for you if your nutrition is healthy overall

Most people would have enjoyed participating in this study by University of Bath researchers — especially because it involves eating a lot of pizza.

Researchers recruited 14 healthy participants and had them eat pizza on two occasions: one time until they were comfortably full, and the other until they couldn’t eat another bite. The results, as the eternal clickbait goes, will surprise you.

Image credits: Chad Montano.

Researchers at the Centre for Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism at the University of Bath analyzed the blood of participants before and after each meal.

In the ‘eat all you can’ group session, participants ate around 3000 kcal on average, roughly about one and a half large pizzas — about two times more than the other ‘normal meal’ group. However, this varied a lot, as some individuals were able to consume up to two and a half large pizzas in one go. Researchers were surprised to see that even when participants pushed way beyond their usual limits and doubled their calorie intake, they managed to keep the amount of nutrients in the bloodstream within the normal range, at least in the short term.

Essentially, this one overindulgent meal did not seem to make much of a difference, says lead researcher Aaron Hengist.

“We all know the long-term risks of over-indulgence with food when it comes to obesity, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but we know much less about some of the immediate effects ‘all you can eat’ places on the body. Our findings show that the body actually copes remarkably well when faced with a massive and sudden calorie excess. Healthy humans can eat twice as much as ‘full’ and deal effectively with this huge initial energy surplus.”

For instance, blood sugar was no higher than after a normal meal, and blood lipids were only slightly higher. The one major difference was the amount of insulin in the blood, which was 50% higher for the large meal than the normal one.

The study also analyzed the participants’ appetite and found that after eating the big pizza meal, participants felt sleepy, lethargic, and had no desire to eat anything else, even dessert. This was somewhat surprising, researchers note, because reward centers in the brain are typically food-specific, so eating a lot of pizza might not be expected to change the desire for sweet food.

This study should not be interpreted as ‘eat all you want and all is OK’. All the participants in the study had a healthy body mass index and were generally healthy — this was a one-off for them, and it was a very small sample size, insufficient to draw any general conclusions.

Still, given all the interest in nutrition and how people tend to overeat, we know surprisingly little about maximal eating, says Professor James Betts, who oversaw the work.

“We know that people often eat beyond their needs, which is why so many of us struggle to manage our body weight. It is therefore surprising that no previous research had measured the maximal capacity for eating at a single meal in order to understand how the human body responds to that challenge.”

“This study reveals that humans are capable of eating twice as much food as is needed to make us feel ‘full’, but that our bodies are well adapted to an excessive delivery of dietary nutrients at one huge meal. Specifically, those tested in this study were able to efficiently use or store the nutrients they ingested during the pizza-eating challenge, such that the levels of sugar and fats in their blood were not much higher than when they ate half as much food.”

The study could also help reconcile research about how and when we eat. For instance, recent studies have shown that people who eat one big breakfast burn more calories than those who don’t.

While the question of the long-term effects of one-off big meals is still unanswered, it’s encouraging to know that if your diet is healthy overall, one exception probably won’t make a huge difference.

“The main problem with overeating is that it adds more stored energy to our bodies (in the form of fat), which can culminate in obesity if you overeat day after day. However, this study shows that if an otherwise healthy person overindulges occasionally, for example eating a large buffet meal or Christmas lunch, then there are no immediate negative consequences in terms of losing metabolic control.”

The study has been published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Pizza Slice.

A look at how the world invented pizza

Thin, inviting, and delicious, pizza has a unique place in many people’s hearts (and bellies). Pizza today is considered the quintessential Italian dish, but many other cultures around the world have also created pizza-like dishes. So grab a slice and let’s take a look at the history of pizza.

Pizza Slice.

Image via Pixabay.

There’s some debate as to where the term “pizza” comes from. One of the prevailing theories, however, is that it comes from the Latin pitta, a type of flatbread. And, to the best of our knowledge, that is exactly how pizza started out: flatbread with extra toppings meant to give it flavor.

Flavor up!

But this idea didn’t originate in Italy. Or, more to the point, it didn’t only originate in Italy.

The fact is that ancient peoples loved bread. For many reasons. Grain kept relatively well in a world bereft of refrigerators, and bread is one of the more enjoyable ways to eat it. It was also among the cheaper foodstuffs, generally, as grain is easy to produce, ship, and process in large quantities. Finally, bread is also quite dense in protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and calories — especially whole-grain bread, which our ancestors ate. Bread doesn’t particularly shine in the taste department, however. Sure, it’s easy to carry and it will get you full, but it’s not very exciting on the palate.

This is perhaps why, as Genevieve Thiers writes in the History of Pizza, soldiers of the Persian King Darius I “baked a kind of bread flat upon their shields and then covered it with cheese and dates” as early as the 6th century B.C. The Greeks (they used to fight the Persians a lot) seem to have later adopted and adapted this dish for their own tables.

Naan bread.

Naan bread, apart from being delicious, can be seen as far-flung relative of pizza.
Image credits Jason Goh.

It was pretty common for ancient Greeks to mix olive oil, cheese, and various herbs into their bread — again, all in the name of flavor. But it seems that contact with Persian soldiers added a twist or two to the tradition, according to Thiers, and Greece started baking “round, flat” bread with a variety of toppings such as meats, fruits, and vegetables.

One interesting bit evidence of this culinary development comes from the Aeneid, an epic poem written around 30 or 20 B.C. In the work, Aeneas and his men (who were running away from Greek-obliterated Troy) receive a prophecy/curse from Celaeno (queen of the harpies). Caleano told him that his group will “have reached [their] promised land” when they “arrive at a place so tired and hungry that [they] eat [their] tables”. When the party came ashore mainland Italy they gathered some “fruits of the field” and placed them on top of the only food they had left — stale round loaves of bread.

The use of hardened bread or crusts of bread in lieu of bowls was quite common in antiquity and the middle ages. So the group’s actions can be seen as them putting the food — the fruits of the field — on a plate, or a table, rather than being used as a topping. Still, famished, the adventurers quickly ate the plants, and then moved on to the ‘plates’ of bread. Aeneas’ son, Ascanius, then remarks that the group has “even eaten the tables” (“etiam mensas consumimus!” Aeniad Book IV), fulfilling the prophecy.

Aeneas fleeing Troy.

Painting by Pompeo Batoni, “Aeneas fleeing from Troy”, 1753. He’s carrying his father, Anchises. Also shown are his first wife, Creusa, and their child, Ascanius.
Image credits Galleria Sabauda.

Italian cuisine

The ‘pizzas’ we’ve talked about up to now are far from unique. Cultures around the world have developed their own brand of goodie-laden bread. Flatbreads, naan, and plakountas are all early preparations that could be considered cousins to the modern pizza, and they sprung up from ancient Greece to India, from Persia to Egypt. However, it would be kind of a stretch to call them pizza; they’re certainly not what you’d expect to see inside a pizza box today.

One Greek settlement would become the forefront of pizza as we know it: Naples. The city was founded by Greek colonists in the shadow of Vesuvius around 600 B.C. Writing in Pizza: A Global History, Carol Helstosky explains that by the 1700s and early 1800s, Naples was a thriving waterfront city — and, technically at least, an independent kingdom.

Lazzaroni.

Painted lithography showing a group of lazzaroni. Author: Silvestro Bossi.
Image in the public domain, via Wikimedia.

The city was famous for its many lazzaroni, or working poor. They needed inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly, for the lazzaroni had neither the time nor the money to invest in their meals. Many street vendors and other informal “restaurants” catered to their need, primarily offering flatbreads with various toppings (as per the area’s Greek heritage). By this time, Naples’ flatbreads featured all the hallmarks of today’s pizzas: tomatoes (which were brought over from the Americas), cheese, oil, anchovies, and garlic.

Still, the dish wasn’t enjoying widespread appeal or recognition at this time. Pizza was considered a poor man’s dish, partially due to the lazzaroni, partly due to the fact that tomatoes were considered poisonous at the time. Wealthy people, you see, used to dine from pewter (a lead alloy) plates at the time. Tomatoes, being somewhat acidic, would leach lead out of the plates into food — which would eventually kill these wealthy people. The tomatoes were blamed, and that made them cheap. The lazzaroni were poor and hungry, so the tomato was right up their alley. Luckily for the lazzaroni, pewter plates were expensive, so they weren’t poisoned.

“Judgmental Italian authors often called [the lazzaroni’s] eating habits ‘disgusting,'” Helstosky notes.

Pizza got its big break around 1889. After the kingdom of Italy unified in 1861, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples, Thiers writes. It’s not exactly known how but they ended up being served ‘pies’ made by Raffaele Esposito, often hailed as the father of modern pizza. Legend has it that the royal pair was bored with the French cuisine they were being offered, although Europeans love bad-mouthing their neighbors and especially their neighbors’ foods, so that may not be completely factual.

“He first experimented with adding only cheese to bread, then added sauce underneath it and let the dough take the shape of a large round pie,” Theirs explains.

Esposito is said to have made three of his pies/pizzas. The story goes that the one the Queen favored most showcased the three colors on Italy’s flag — green basil, white mozzarella, and red tomatoes. Whether this was a coincidence or by design, we’ll never know. But you can pick the story you like most. Esposito named his pizza “Margherita” in honor of the Queen, although today it’s more commonly referred to as ‘cheese pizza’.

From there, pizza has only reached greater heights. It established itself as an iconic Italian dish, first in Italy and later within Europe. America’s love of pizza began with Italian immigrants and was later propelled by soldiers who fought — and ate — in Italy during the Second World War.

Today, it’s a staple in both fast-food and fancy restaurants, can be bought frozen, or can be prepared at home (it’s quite good fun with the right mates). I think it’s fair to say that although Persia’s soldiers couldn’t conquer the world, their food certainly did.

The most expensive things you can eat or drink

Gastronomy is becoming more of a science and less of an art with each passing day, but there are some foods which are just downright unreasonably expensive. This is a list of the most extravagant, exorbitant and expensive foods (the list is not exhaustive, so if there’s anything else you think is worth added here, just contact me).

The most expensive caviar

Price: 7-10.000$ / kg
Where can you find it: Caspian region

Caviar is the expensive food by default, but beluga is the caviar among caviar. It can be produced only by a certain type of sturgeon (Huso Huso) that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs, and it’s best served only when the fish it is extracted from is older than 100 years.

The Beluga sturgeon, however, is an endangered species, and therefore numerous countries, including the US, have banned the import and use of it, but it can still be found in most countries from the former USSR, as well as other countries in the Caspian region.

If eating an endangered and banned species won’t stop you, the price probably will; at 7$/gram, a decent taste will cost about 1500$, which is more than your average night out.

Most expensive omelette

Price: 1.000$
Where can you find it: New York

The Le Parker Meridien restaurant serves the world’s most expensive omelette in the world by far; by so far that in the menu, next to it, there is a challenge that reads “Norma dares you to expense this”. It’s not the 10 eggs that are expensive though, but the lobster in the middle and the 200 grams of caviar.

The white truffle

Price: 5-165.000$ / kg
Where can you find it: almost anywhere in the world

The white truffle is by far the rarest and most expensive mushroom in the world.

It originates from a region in Italy, and their price varies widely. You shouldn’t confuse them with black truffles, which are expensive too, but a whole different league.

Truffles can be eaten in many ways, but I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never had one; as a matter of fact, I only know a single person who has.

The record price for white truffles was set in December 2007, when Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid US $330,000 for a single specimen weighing 1.5 kg. Just think about that, find one single mushroom, and you’re set for life; but finding one is not so easy. Dogs are trained for years before they can successfully locate such a truffle.

The most expensive pizza

Price: 4.200$
Where can you find it: you can’t

Pizza is a regular dish for most Americans and Europeans especially because it’s good food for a small budget. But this isn’t the case here, of course, because chef Domenico Crolla’s “Pizza Royale 007″ has some absolutely amazing ingredients, such as lobster marinated in cognac, caviar soaked in champagne, sunblush tomato sauce, Scottish smoked salmon, venison medallions, prosciutto, and vintage balsamic vinegar. To top it off, it even has some edible 24-carat gold flakes. The pizza was a one time offer, and it was auctioned on eBay.

The most expensive burger

Price: 5.000$
Where can you find it: Las Vegas

If you’re thinking pizza is too expensive, then why not try a burger ? In this case, you should go for the Fleur 5000 Burger, sold in Vegas; the good thing is, you will also get a 1995 Chateau Petrus from Bordeaux to go with it. The bad thing is that bottle is also a reason why it is so expensive, aside from the kobe beef, truffles and foie gras. If you’re still not impressed, you can quench your curiosity by going to the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.

The most expensive bagel

Price: 1000$
Where can you find it: New York

The world’s most expensive bagel can also be found in New York, and why shouldn’t it be one thousand dollars, when it’s made with white truffle cream cheese and goji berry infused Riesling jelly with golden leaves ?

The most expensive ice cream

Price: 1000$
Where can you find it: Manhattan

After a fine meal like the ones above, there should definitely be some extra room for desert – and what better dessert can you have than the premium ice cream made by Serendipity 3 from Manhattan ? Made from Tahiti vanilla, Madagascar vanilla, edible gold flakes and one of the most expensive chocolates in the world, this ice cream will definitely cool you off – and your pockets too.

The most expensive chocolates

Price: 2,600 euro / box
Where can you find it: on the internet

If ice cream isn’t your thing, these chocolate truffles will definitely please your senses. You can buy them online, from the Knipschildt site, at about 3.500$. Created after a secret recipe, their cream is made from 70% highest quality cocoa, as well as black truffles. A box weighs slightly under 400 grams.

The most expensive coffee

Price: 10.000$ / kg
Where can you find it: fancy stores

If you feel the need to wake up, the Kopi Luwak coffee might do the trick for you. The most expensive coffee in the world has an interesting story: it is made from coffee beans which have been eaten by a species of civet and then defecated. Aside from being digested in the civet’s body, it is also dried, roasted and brewed, after which it becomes much more aromatic and much less bitter.

The most expensive Rum

Price: 53.000$ / bottle
Where can you find it: unknown

 

I don’t know about you, but after this kind of prices, I could definitely use a drink – a strong rum, perhaps? It is unknown just how many bottles of Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum there still are in the world, but there can’t be too many. No one has sold or bought one in ages and considering its price, I would bet no one has drank one in ages too. Made in 1940, this is the most expensive rum in the world, and one of the most expensive drinks, too. It’s not for your average pirate, that’s for sure.

The most expensive cocktail

Price: 18.000$
Where can you find it: Tokyo

It would have been impossible to have a list such as this one without including Japan in it at least once. The Diamonds Are Forever Martini is a supreme luxury in a (small) glass. It comes with a smooth blend of chilled Grey Goose vodka poured over a one carat diamond, some martini, and a twist of lime. Yeah, the good news is you get to keep the diamond; however, only a handful of such cocktails were bought. Don’t forget to get yours when you go to the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Tokyo.

The most expensive beer

Price: 1.000$
Where can you find it: London

But enough of these fancy drinks ! You can always just go out with the boys for a beer or two, right? Well, not in London, at Bierdorme, where a Vielle Bon Secours costs no less than 1.000$ – guaranteed to make your head spin the next day, and probably many more after that.

The most expensive water

Price: 2144$ / gallon
Where can you find it: Hawaii, Japan

If all else fails, you can always just have a glass of water; except when that water is made from desalinated water with a high mineral content found 2,000 feet down off the coast of Hawaii. It is credited with aiding weight loss, skin tone, and a whole lot of other health benefits. It’s supposed to be so good, that you can actually dilute it with … water. Japanese love this water so much that 80.000 bottles get shipped there every day, even though there is a local alternative processed in the same conditions.

Image: HelloGiggles

Is pizza really like crack? A rhetorical question for the media

Here we go again. A new study which investigated so-called addictive effects of food got picked up by the media with moronic headlines. The study in question found similar pharmacokinetic properties (e.g. concentrated dose, rapid rate of absorption) between highly processed foods and drugs of abuse. The most rewarding food was found to be pizza, and some claim cheese is in fact the addictive proxy. Apparently, cheese contains a concentrated amount of a protein known to bind to opiate receptors in the brain. Unsurprisingly, here are some of the headlines we’ve seen since: “Cheese really is like crack: Study reveals the food triggers the same part of the brain as drugs” (Daily Mail) or “Cheese really is crack. Study reveals cheese is as addictive as drugs” (LA Times). It goes without saying that cheese is not crack, and such headlines could be actually demeaning to crack addicts.

Image: HelloGiggles

Image: HelloGiggles

The University of Michigan researchers performed two studies. In the first, 120 undergraduates were asked to complete the  Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) test which measures whether or not the participant has overeating problems or feels certain foods are difficult to refuse. Then the volunteers were asked to pick from a list of 35 foods varying in nutritional content the ones they associated with addictive-like eating behaviors. In the second part, the researchers investigated “which food attributes (e.g., fat grams) were related to addictive-like eating behavior (at level one) and explored the influence of individual differences for this association (at level two).”

The conclusion was that highly processed foods high in fat and glycemic load were most frequently associated with addictive-like eating behaviors. In the second study involving 384 participants, the UM scientists were able to predict whether a food was associated with problematic, addictive-like eating behaviors. Food cravings had a different effect on overweight people, seeing a greater stimulation in the brain’s “reward centers”.

“An unprocessed food, such as an apple, is less likely to trigger an addictive-like response than a highly processed food, such as a cookie,” the team wrote.

Pizza, apparently, was identified as the most addictive food stuff out there. One of the most widely used and abuse pizza toppings is cheese which contains an opiate called casomorphins. While all proteins contain some casomorphins, the substance is highly concentrated in cheese. “Casomorphins attach to the brain’s opiate receptors to cause a calming effect in much the same way heroin and morphine do,” says Neal Barnard, MD and author of the book Breaking the Food Seduction. “In fact, since cheese is processed to express out all the liquid, it’s an incredibly concentrated source of casomorphins— you might call it dairy crack.” I think Dr. Barnard is on to something, since he obviously is smoking crack. Secondly, cheese was found to be less addictive than cookies or ice cream.

The top 10 most addictive foods identified by the study were (scale 1 to 7):

  1. pizza – 4.01
  2. chocolate – 3.73
  3. chips – 3.73
  4. cookies – 3.71
  5. ice cream – 3.68
  6. french fries – 3.6
  7. cheeseburger – 3.51
  8. soda (not diet) – 3.29
  9. cake – 3.26
  10. cheese – 3.22

The science on food addiction is controversial to say the least, but suffice to say food addiction isn’t considered a real medical mental health illness like drug abuse. Do you feel like banging your head against the wall or compulsively scratch your eye balls if you miss cheese for a week? Yes, foods interact with pleasure centers in the brain and some produce a soothing effect on the brain, in addition to satiating hunger. But that’s miles away from associating cheese or any food with heroin or crack. If you really like ice cream, it’s socially acceptable to say “i’m addicted to ice cream”. Scientifically speaking though, you’re not addicted to ice cream.  Carl Erickson, director of the University of Texas’s Addiction Science Research and Education Center said:

“I think that a study like this can be devastating with respect to public understanding of what addiction is and what it’s not,” he told Motherboard. “First of all, there’s no science behind food being addicting in spite of what general public feels. Reporters often publish this sensationalism trying to get people to think you can be addicted to lingerie, to food, to a cell phone, to the tanning booth.”

 

Men ate almost twice as much when they dined with women

We all know that men like to impress the fairer members of our species, and this permeates into almost everything we do: we want to drive the shiniest car on the block, crack the funniest jokes 24/7 and write for ZMEScience so we can impress the ladies at parties (works every time). In essence, no matter how unlikely it is to actually impress, if a man has a choice between doing something and doing that something over the top so he can show off to women, you can bet your right arm he’s gonna do the latter.

Don’t believe me? Well, a recently published study discovered that men will actually eat more food when they dine with a woman than they do in the company of other males, just to show off.

Men who were coupled up with a female tend to eat more to impress the fairer sex. Image via wikimedia

 

Netflix and eat?

The study observed over 150 adults having lunch at an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet over a two-week period. Researchers from Cornell University, who collaborated with Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab for the study, took note of the number of pizza slices and how many bowls of salad each subject consumed. Men who walked in the buffet with a female and ate there packed their plates with pizza slices and left the buffet line with bowls overflowing with salad. On average, they ate 93 percent more pizza and 86 percent more greens than the men who ate alone or with other men.

‘These findings suggest that men tend to overeat to show off – you can also see this tendency in eating competitions which almost always have mostly male participants,’ explains lead author Kevin Kniffin, PhD, of Cornell University in a recent press release.

The researchers waited for the diners to finish their meal and asked them to complete a short survey indicating their level of fullness after eating, their feelings of hurridness and comfort while eating. While they didn’t change the amount they ate while dining with either gender, the women reported feeling like they overate and rushed through the meal when dining with men — however, the team said that their observations disproved this.

So the next time you’re out eating with a guy friend, just try to relax and enjoy your meal; it’s just your brain trying to impress him — his brain is busy doing the same.

 

Science finds the most and least addictive foods

Scientists from the University of Michigan have found which are the most and least addictive foods in the world. They gathered data from over 500 participants and found that the most addictive foods are (no surprise) pizza, ice cream and chocolate, while the least addictive ones are cucumbers, carrots, beans and rice.

Pizza was the most addictive food, according to questionnaires answered by 400 people.

 

It’s been debated for years whether or not food addiction actually exists; naturally, we are all addicted to food in the sense that we have to eat in order to survive. But can you actually be addicted to certain foods, like hamburgers? There is still no general consensus on this, but biologists seem to dismiss this idea, while many psychologists claim that food addiction is a real, serious problem – there are documented cases with people going through withdrawal-like symptoms when living without certain foods. With this in mind, a researcher from the University of Michigan and one from the New York Obesity Research Center, the Department of Medicine set out to find what are the most addictive foods.

For this, they asked participants to answer questions based on the Yale Food Addiction Scale. The scale was designed in 2009 by Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and asks people to answer 25 questions on how much they like a certain food. The scale asks participants to count the number of times they’ve agreed with sentences like, “I eat to the point where I feel physically ill” or “I spend a lot of time feeling sluggish or fatigued from overeating,” to help them identify the biggest offenders. Scientists emphasized that “foods” doesn’t mean only unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables, but can also apply to processed foods.

However, when the same study was conducted on undergrads, chocolate turned out to be the most addictive food.

Study 1 – the undergraduates

They conducted two separate studies to see what foods are considered problematic – how much is a certain food overeaten or eaten up to the point where it causes physical discomfort. The first study was conducted on 120 undergraduates. who were recruited from flyers on campus or through the University of Michigan Introductory Psychology Subject Pool. Students received either financial compensation or study credit for their time.

No surprises there, chocolate took the top spot, with over 1 in 4 people considering chocolate problematic. Ice cream, french fries and pizza followed, again, rather expectedly. But there were also some surprises: breakfast cereals were more problematic than soda or fried chicken, while water was considered to be more problematic than cucumbers or beans… I guess no one really loves beans.

journal.pone.0117959.t002

“As hypothesized, highly processed foods (with added fat and/or refined carbohydrates) appeared to be most associated with behavioral indicators of addictive-like eating,” the study writes.

Study 2

Ice is always one of the favorites.

The team also conducted a second study, on almost 400 participants.

“A total of 398 participants were recruited using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) worker pool to complete a study about eating behaviors and were compensatedfor their time”.

journal.pone.0117959.t003

So this is the chart of what can be considered the most addictive foods. Interestingly enough, results were slightly different. Pizza took the top spot and chocolate had to settle for second. Chips, cookies and ice cream come closely after. Breakfast cereal dropped significantly, and the least popular food is… the cucumber.

I was surprised to find bananas close to the bottom of the list, even under water. But what’s really the takeaway here is that virtually all the addictive foods are processed.

“In summary, the current study found that highly processed foods, with added amounts of fat and/or refined carbohydrates (e.g., sugar, white flour), were most likely to be associated with behavioral indicators of addictive-like eating. Additionally, foods with high GL were especially related to addictive-like eating problems for individuals endorsing elevated symptoms of “food addiction.” Individuals endorsing symptoms of addictive-like eating behavior may be more susceptible to the large blood sugar spike of high GL foods, which is consistent with the importance of dose and rate of absorption in the addictive potential of drugs of abuse,” the study concludes.

Kids might love pizza, but it sure isn't healthy when served consistently. Nutritionists believe pizza and sugary drinks are the prime enemies in the fight against obesity, particularly in children. Image: Papa John

In the fight against obesity, pizza is a prime enemy

Nutritionists have identified pizza as a major contributor to obesity among young children and adolescents, and caution parents to be extremely careful considering the prevalence of the food stuff. One of the world’s favorite snack is very rich in saturated fat, sodium and calories and, in the US, one in five children eat pizza on any given day. Fast food pizza is considerably more rich in calories than cafeteria pizza.

Mind your pizza

Kids might love pizza, but it sure isn't healthy when served consistently. Nutritionists believe pizza and sugary drinks are the prime enemies in the fight against obesity, particularly in children. Image: Papa John

Kids might love pizza, but it sure isn’t healthy when served consistently. Nutritionists believe pizza and sugary drinks are the prime enemies in the fight against obesity, particularly in children. Image: Papa John

Lisa M. Powell, PhD, professor, health policy and administration at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at University of Illinois in Chicago, and colleagues examined data over the course of four years (2003-2004 through 2009-2010) from children 2-11 and “non-pregnant” adolescents 12-19 who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Participants were asked to fill out 2 non-consecutive 24-hour dietary recalls, with day 1 interviews conducted by trained dietary interviewers in an examination center and the second interview conducted by telephone 3 to 10 days later.  Children 6-11 had proxy-assisted interviews and children younger than 6 had proxy respondents. In total,  6,384 observations were recorded for children and 5775 observations were recorded for adolescents.

“It’s a very common and convenient food, so improving the nutritional content of pizza, in addition to reducing the amount of pizza eaten, could help lessen its negative nutritional impact,” Powel said.

The survey found that more than a fifth of both children and adolescents (20% and 23%, respectively) consumed pizza on any given day in 2009-2010. The kids who ate pizza during the study period , be them primary school students or teens,  increased in their intake of saturated fat by 3 g and 5 g and sodium by 134 mg and 484 mg, respectively. Also, pizza from a fast-food restaurant was associated with a 323 kcal increase in total daily energy intake for adolescents (P<0.05) compared to pizza from the school cafeteria. The increased sodium intake is especially worrisome considering  1 out of 20 kids are affected with high blood pressure.

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“These results highlight the idea of drive-by or mindless eating’s role on increasing energy intake and the importance of a dietitian’s discussion with patients and families about planning healthy snacks ahead of time,” said  S. Skylar Griggs, MS, RD, LDN, clinical nutrition specialist for the preventative cardiology division at Children’s Hospital Boston.

The authors do acknowledge that there are several limitations to the study, including underreporting of self-reported 24-hour dietary recall data, as well as significant heterogeneity in the serving size of pizza and the nutrition content of different brands. They suggest these limitations are addressed in follow-up studies that “might want to look at brand specific and perhaps maybe call out some of the worst offenders so that we can improve awareness,” the authors write in the paper published in the journal  Pediatrics.

Dr. William Dietz, director of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, said that lowering our kids’ intake of pizza “should become another goal in our efforts to reduce obesity in U.S. youth.”