Food and Behaviour Research

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Hyper-Palatable Foods: Development of a Quantitative Definition and Application to the US Food System Database

Fazzino TL, Rohde K, Sullivan DK (2019) Obesity (Silver Spring).  2019 Nov;27(11): 1761-1768. doi: 10.1002/oby.22639. 

Web URL: Read this and related abstracts on PubMed here



Extensive research has focused on hyper-palatable foods (HPF); however, HPF are defined using descriptive terms (e.g., fast foods, sweets), which are not standardized and lack specificity. The study purpose was to develop a quantitative definition of HPF and apply the definition to the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS) to determine HPF prevalence in the US food system.


A numeric definition of HPF was developed by extracting common HPF descriptive definitions from the literature and using nutrition software to quantify ingredients of fat, simple sugars, carbohydrates, and sodium. The definition was applied to the FNDDS.


HPF from the literature aligned with three clusters: (1) fat and sodium (> 25% kcal from fat, ≥ 0.30% sodium by weight), (2) fat and simple sugars (> 20% kcal from fat, > 20% kcal from sugar), and (3) carbohydrates and sodium (> 40% kcal from carbohydrates, ≥ 0.20% sodium by weight). In the FNDDS, 62% (4,795/7,757) of foods met HPF criteria. The HPF criteria identified a variety of foods, including some labeled reduced or low fat and vegetables cooked in creams, sauces, or fats.


A data-derived HPF definition revealed that a substantial percentage of foods in the US food system may be hyper-palatable, including foods not previously conceptualized as hyper-palatable.