Topic, "Why Are We Fat? The Visibility of Food and the Invisibility of Calories"

Hi. This month we will have a fascinating discussion at our Cafe Sci at 7PM on Wednesday 2 May, at Taste, in College Park.

More than any other time in our evolutionary history, much of the world's population is living in environments of food abundance in which it is impossible to perceive or impute the caloric density of the foods we eat. Visual food cues are everywhere in obesogenic environments and these catalyze reflexive cognitive, physiological and behavioral responses leading to a desire to eat and food intake. Over the last 2 decades, there has been an increasing norm for larger portion sizes which are not detected by visceral feedback and size alone is a poor measure of the caloric density of foods. Many modernizing trends distance people from food production, preservation, packaging and preparation so that traditional cues involving these activities by which energy density, or some proxy, might be inferred are no longer experienced. Furthermore, food technology and marketing have led to a wide range of deceptions regarding the caloric density of food by reducing fiber and water content and adding excessive amounts of fat and sugar. We cannot trust either vision or taste to detect caloric content. For example, diet beverages use non-caloric sweeteners and fat-free pastries may have nearly the same mouth-feel and caloric content as the standard preparation. Increasing the visibility of calories is one approach to potentially decreasing food intake and curbing the obesity pandemic. One suggestion is to use the universal traffic color code with red for high, yellow for medium and green for low caloric densities. Examples of this approach in the UK and Australia will be discussed and a new symbol "Cal" will be introduced.

Leslie Sue Lieberman, Ph.D., is a biomedical anthropologist and the founding Director of the Women's Research Center, Emerita Professor of Anthropology (June 2011) and Courtesy Professor of Medical Education at the University of Central Florida. She currently holds a position as a European Union Visiting Scholar. She is a founding member of the Orlando Cafe Scientifique. Most of her research is centered on obesity and diabetes among US minority populations. She is the former President of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition and the Biological Anthropology Section of the American Anthropological Association, both the UCF and UF Chapters of Sigma Xi, the Florida Academy of Sciences and of the National Association of Academies of Science/AAAS. Her research and scientific activities have been supported by NIH, NSF, HRSA, NIMH and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Diabetes Research and Education Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Florida Humanities Council, and private industry. She has co-authored or edited 11 books and published over 75 journal articles and book chapters and more than 200 other works: reports, reviews, and editorials.


717 W. Smith Street
Orlando, United States

Taste is near the corner of Princeton Street (really Smith Street after the fork) and Edgewater Drive, so about 2 minutes from I-4 to parking. One can park on the street or in the parking lot behind Taste.

From I-4, drive a few blocks to Edgewater Drive. At the intersection, you should see a orange building ahead of you, labeled "Taste". Park on the street or behind Taste.