Salty, crispy and delicious – hot chips are definitely a favourite potato recipe, but did you know there is actually a science behind why most people love them so much?
Whether you are searching for the most crunchy chips at the bottom of the bag or prefer the big, fat soft ones, it is hard to resist diving in for a second, or maybe another handful. And we can blame our brains!
Research published in the journal Cell Metabolism and reposted by Scimex found that foods high in both fat AND carbohydrates trigger the reward centre of the brain, more so than other processed foods that may just contain one or the other.
The scientists at Yale University found that people that find it relatively easy to estimate the amount of calories in fatty foods but weren’t so good at estimating calories in carbohydrates. So when combined, the brain overestimates how beneficial that food will be for the body – meaning it thinks hot chips are far better for us than they really are.
To prove this, researchers ran a number of tests on a group of 206 adults to see how the brain responded to photographs of different foods, filled with sugar, fat and a combination of fat and carbs. The study participants were given a certain amount of money and asked to bid on foods they would most like to eat.
The fatty and carb-filled foods, such as hot chips, were a top choice, with people willing to pay more for the delicious treat. On top of this, neural circuits in the reward centre of the brain actually lit up at the thought of eating fat-and-carb combos such as hot chips more so than when the people considered sugary, more energy dense foods or larger portions of food.
Our brains are only doing what they’re meant to. The scientists explained that foods with carbs and fat in them somehow signal their “potential calorific loads” to our brains in order to help us stay alive by not expending energy on foods that won’t sustain us.
“For example, a mouse should not risk running into the open and exposing itself to a predator if a food provides little energy,” senior author study Dana Small, a director at Yale’s Modern Diet and Physiology Research Centre, explained.
Scientists also believe carb-filled foods release dopamine – a chemical that affects emotions, movements and sensations of pleasure and pain – in the brain, however this is yet to be proven. The scientists said, however, that the existing study could help explain why some people have a genetic predisposition to obesity, continue to eat when they’re not hungry, and have difficulty in losing or keeping off excess weight.