Our brain’s response to the taste of hot chips is an evolutionary thing.
Our brain’s response to the taste of hot chips is an evolutionary thing.

HOT CHIPS: Why resistance is futile

SCIENTISTS have found the reason behind our weakness for hot chips, with a new study showing foods high in both carbohydrates and fat "hijack" our decision-making.

In a groundbreaking study, researchers found the brain's reward centre valued fat and carb-rich foods above all others, even when offered larger portions, sweeter foods or a favourite snack.

The study found humans had not evolved enough from the days of hunting and gathering to cope with making good decisions about relatively new processed foods high in carbs and fats, such as hot chips and doughnuts.

"The biological process that regulates the association of foods with their nutritional value evolved to carefully define the value of a food so that organisms can make adaptive decisions," Yale University researcher Dana Small said.

"Our participants were very accurate at estimating calories from fat and very poor at estimating calories from carbohydrate and our study shows that when both nutrients are combined, the brain seems to overestimate the energetic value of the food."

 

Thomas Prout and Timothy Behan, both 5, enjoy some hot chips by the bay at Manly. Picture: Peter Wallis
Thomas Prout and Timothy Behan, both 5, enjoy some hot chips by the bay at Manly. Picture: Peter Wallis

 

Test subjects underwent brains scans while being shown photographs of familiar snacks with different combinations of fat, sugar and carbs and when given a limited amount of money to bid on their first-choice foods, subjects were willing to pay far more for foods high in both carbs and fat.

The researchers said the findings could help to explain how the obesity epidemic took hold.

"The simultaneous activation of fat and carbohydrate signalling pathways launches an effect that human physiology has not evolved to handle," they wrote.

"Consistent with this suggestion, rodents given access to fat alone or carbohydrate alone regulate their total daily caloric intake and body weight but given unrestricted access to fat and carbohydrates, they quickly gain weight."

Little Thomas Prout can attest to the addictive nature of hot chips.

"It tends to be his favourite treat food," mum Roslyn said.

"Every now and then we get hot chips as a treat.

"You certainly can't stop him at one."

Ms Prout said the love of hot chips ran in the family.

"I am partial as well," she said.

"I'll tell my husband I can blame it on science now."



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