Two enduring conundrums from early modernity to encompass post modernity enclaves.

The discourse surrounding diet science parallels social science in a profound way, particularly in its foundational reliance on what one might deem ‘first principles.’ Consider, for instance, the axiom of consuming whole foods or engaging in gossip only when deemed necessary. This parallel extends to a common awareness: just as many recognize the detrimental effects of ultra-processed foods—defined by some experts as those containing any of a specific set of 12 additives—there is also an understanding of how excessive gossip can erode the fabric of community.

The comparison deepens when one considers the habit-forming nature of both ultra-processed foods and gossip. Both have the capacity to trigger mood enhancements, yet quantifying the extent of their negative impact remains a scientific challenge. How much processed food is too much? At what point does gossip become harmful? These questions underscore the difficulties in drawing definitive boundaries in both diet science and social science.

Moreover, both ultra-processed foods and gossip are pervasive in modern society, offering immediate gratification yet leading to unintended consequences. Gossip, despite its negative reputation and the ethical dilemma it poses by involving third parties who are not present, provides essential social comparison information that many seek for personal or professional success. Similarly, ultra-processed foods often remove the ‘third party’—the natural, unaltered ingredients—replacing them with synthetic compounds, such as those found in vegan meat alternatives.

This phenomenon is particularly pronounced among the working poor, for whom ultra-processed foods and gossip become a currency of sorts. In the relentless pursuit of wealth creation, time becomes a scarce commodity, driving a reliance on time-saving conveniences, be they in diet or social interactions. However, there lies a potential for revolution, a paradigm shift where the poor might ‘do a runner’ from the constraints of urban life. By relocating to less economically burdensome rural areas, they could reclaim time, allowing for the preparation of whole foods and engagement in more genuine social interactions, free from the pressures of competitive corporate environments.

In reflecting on these insights, the lesson becomes clear: the pursuit of immediate gratification, be it through ultra-processed foods or unbridled gossip, is a path fraught with pitfalls. Echoing the sentiments of a luminary who once advised to “tune in, turn on, drop out,” there’s wisdom in reevaluating our choices, seeking a more authentic and grounded way of living. This realignment not only resonates with a deeper understanding of diet science and social science but also with a philosophical pursuit of a more harmonious existence.