Epistemic Spot Check: The Dorito Effect (Mark Schatzker)

Epistemic Spot Checks is a series in which I fact check claims a book makes, to determine its trustworthiness. It is not a book review or a check on every claim the book makes, merely a spot check of what I find particularly interesting or important (or already know).

Today’s subject is The Dorito Effect, which claims that Americans are getting fat because food is simultaneously getting blander and less nutritious, and then more intensely flavored through artificial means. This is leaving people fat and yet malnourished.


Claim: Humans did not get fatter over the last 100 years due to changes in genetics.
True. People are fatter than their ancestors, indicating it’s not a change in genetics (although genetics still plays a role in an individual’s weight).

Claim: Casimir Funk discovered that an extract of brown rice could cure beriberi in chickens.

Claim: In 1932, the average farm produced 63 sacks of potatoes/acre. By the mid 1960s, it was 200 sacks/acre.


Claim: Everything is getting blander and more seasoned.
More seasoned.
Blander food.
Note that both sources were provided by the book itself.

Claim: “We eat for one reason: because we love the way food tastes. Flavor is the original craving”.
This doesn’t jive with my personal experience. I definitely crave nutrients and am satisfied by them even without tasting them.

Claim: “In 1946 and 1947, regional Chicken Of Tomorrow contests were held.”

Claim: Over time the Chicken Of Tomorrow winners consistently weighed more, with less feed and less time to maturity.

Claim: Produce is getting less nutritious over time.
True (source provided by author).


Extremely trustworthy, and therefore worrisome, given the implication that food is becoming inexorably worse. Dorito Effect is unfortunately light on solutions, so you might just freak yourself out to no purpose. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a kick to start eating better, this could easily be it.

Meditation Ramblings

For a few weeks in a row, I was meditating by focusing on my breath, mostly around my diaphragm. Inevitably after some time (exact amount hard to determine because, meditating), my attention would be drawn to some patches of skin around my neck.  If I focused on them, something good happened, although it’s been long enough since I did this that I don’t remember what. Probably I relaxed.

Several times I tried to get ahead of the system by focusing on those neck patches from the beginning. It was always the same patches, so the problem was not that I was focused on the wrong area. This never worked. Something necessary was happening during the focus on diaphragm.

“Skipping ahead to the neck” feels like a pretty good metaphor for my failure mode in meditation and introspection in general. I identify the thing that happened most directly before something good, and try to replicate that, then am disappointed when I get the same results. I have a lot of resistance to going through the longer process.

Some of that is Drive For Efficiency, but I think a lot of times I genuinely don’t know what the whole process was, only the last step or two. I spent a week in July drawing body map after body map and hit the most enlightened I’ve ever been, by which I mean I was getting the promised benefits of meditation. Even very negative emotions didn’t bother me, they were just another kind of sensation. I was able to see a lot of things I’d previously labeled as emotions were better considered reactions to emotions, or attempts to mitigate them.

This went away after a few days. I tried desperately to get it back by drawing more body maps, but nope. That has never worked again. Either I solved all the problems body mapping can solve (unlikely), or there was some precursor I haven’t identified. Actually I generated a new guess writing this out. Thanks guys.

For a few weeks I was very frustrated by my inability to recreate the feelings at all. Then someone told me to stop striving (duh), and I got back maybe 40%, which is not bad at all.