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

A lively argument from an award-winning journalist proving that the key to reversing America’s health crisis lies in the overlooked link between nutrition and flavor: “The Dorito Effect is one of the most important health and food books I have read” (Dr. David B. Agus, New York Times bestselling author).We are in the grip of a food crisis. Obesity has become a leading cause of preventable death, after only smoking. For nearly half a century we’ve been trying to pin the blame somewhere—fat, carbs, sugar, wheat, high-fructose corn syrup. But that search has been in vain, because the food problem that’s killing us is not a nutrient problem. It’s a behavioral problem, and it’s caused by the changing flavor of the food we eat. Ever since the 1940s, with the rise of industrialized food production, we have been gradually leeching the taste out of what we grow. Simultaneously, we have taken great leaps forward in technology, creating a flavor industry, worth billions annually, in an attempt to put back the tastes we’ve engineered out of our food. The result is a national cuisine that increasingly resembles the paragon of flavor…

I happened upon THE DORITO EFFECT courtesy of my sister-in-law (she knows me well), and I've been obsessed with it ever since. It’s a known fact in my family that I will eat up (ha! get it?) books like Michael Pollan's FOOD MATTERS and documentaries with names like "Food, Inc." But this book in particular threw me for a loop. In terms of research and life-changing information, the knowledge and view of the food industry and farming presented here by Mark Schatzker blows the other materials I’ve read and seen out of the water. Researcher and writer Schatzker leads us through the science and the "why"s of the food we eat now (and how it relates to our modern war with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and all of the physical effects of eating a diet low on nutrition and flavor and high on synthetic chemicals). He explains how modern agriculture, in a race to increase yield, has resulted in meats, vegetables and fruits that are low in flavor and nutrition--and how, in our natural instinct to seek out those things, Americans have turned to the synthetic foods—(full of flavor and trick-your-brain additives) the food industry offers us in droves as a replacement for the stuff we should be taking from nature. It’s a depressing book, truly—to learn how far and how quickly we’ve moved away from the bounty nature is meant to provide for us makes for an uncomfortable read. But I think it’s an important one, and for that I am very grateful for Sarah (my good-gift-giving sister-in-law). I did have some issues with the book: Schatzker has a tendency to come across with a little arrogance (kind of like that super fit friend of yours who quietly patronizes you for never finding time for the gym), which can be off-putting. The information can be dense at times. I found myself wishing for photographs of some of the scientists and places he visited while researching the book. There is a very short chapter of “tips” at the end of the book, but I wish he’d finished each chapter with a “What You Can Do About It” section: a lot of this information is scary and unsettling, and often I was left feeling hopeless without any clue how I could make the situation better, on a small scale. But overall, I highly recommend this to anyone interested in modern food. It’s intriguing, interesting, and Schatzker can be funny and casual, especially toward the end when he began using more of his own personal anecdotes. Much to my family’s Cheetos-loving chagrin, this book has altered the way I plan our family meals, the restaurants we patronize--even where we buy our groceries. A book like THE DORITO EFFECT that has the power to make someone make positive change is worth a look.


There is a fat bluebird outside my office window. The shepherd’s hook on which he perches shakes under his weight. He’s eyeing the feeder that hangs below, recently filled to brimming with seeds. My writing space is in the front of our house. It’s a house we bought so that my husband could work from home–his office is tucked into the back, on the exact opposite side from where I sit, behind the garage and off the kitchen and laundry room. It has a door, but he can hear us moving around at meal times (and snack times, and washing-the-dishes times: so, all the time), and we can hear him pacing, his arms moving as he takes conference calls and leads presentations from his small space in this quiet suburb of a small city. I was lucky to commandeer the space in the front of the house–it’s a formal living room, closed off save for a narrow arched doorway to the front hall. I still haven’t painted it, though I’ve the color picked out. We hope to eventually knock a large hole…

February 21, 2018