McDonalds now automatically adds whipped cream to all of its shakes. (Photo: Flickr user sameold2010)

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Why do McDonald's, Starbucks and other chain restaurants offer huge dollops of whipped cream to consumers at no extra cost, but at more than 100 extra calories?

Why do McDonald's and Burger King hand out caramel sauce with their sliced apples? The sauce can add up to 70 calories and 9 grams of fat to an otherwise healthy snack.

McDonalds says they're phasing out the caramel when they roll out their new healthier Happy Meals. But why did they offer caramel in the first place?

Former F.D.A. commissioner, David Kessler, has been studying this issue for years and wrote about it in his 2009 book, "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite."

He told Here and Now's Robin Young that adding extras like whipped cream or caramel sauce is part of a larger phenomenon.

"The fact is the American diet is the sweetest diet in the world," Kessler said. "And it is the sweetening of the diet that drives eating."

Kessler says that sweeteners in food are the main drivers of overeating. But combining sweet with fat, texture, and even temperature makes food even more tempting. It's a formula that seems to be working.

"Look at what the business plan of the modern, global food company has been," Kessler said. "It's been to take sugar, fat and salt, put it on every corner, make it available 24-7, make it socially acceptable to eat any time."

Kesssler says those cues, combined with sweeter food, are rewiring our brains.

Read the rest of this story on the Here and Now website.

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