Eating Potato Chips Because Of Hedonic Hyperphagia

Why can’t we stop at one potato chips?

5:48 AM, 26th April 2013
Research On Potato Chips
The secret to eating more than one potato chips is due to a condition called ‘hedonic hyperphagia,’ eating to excess for pleasure, rather than hunger.

NEW ORLEANS, US: The scientific secrets underpinning that awful reality about potato chips, eat one and you’re apt to scarf ’em all down, began coming out of the bag in research conducted by Tobias Hoch, PhD. The results shed light on the causes of a condition called ‘hedonic hyperphagia’ that plagues hundreds of millions of people around the world. The research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

“That’s the scientific term for ‘eating to excess for pleasure, rather than hunger.’ It’s recreational over-eating that may occur in almost everyone at some time in life. And the chronic form is a key factor in the epidemic of overweight and obesity that here in the United States threatens health problems for two out of every three people.”

The team at FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Erlangen, Germany, probed the condition with an ingenious study in which scientists allowed one group of laboratory rats to feast on potato chips. Another group got bland old rat chow. Scientists then used high-tech magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices to peer into the rats’ brains, seeking differences in activity between the rats-on-chips and the rats-on-chow.

Among the reasons why people are attracted to these foods, even on a full stomach, was suspected to be the high ratio of fats and carbohydrates, which send a pleasing message to the brain, according to the team. In the study, while rats also were fed the same mixture of fat and carbohydrates found in the chips, the animals’ brains reacted much more positively to the chips.

Although carbohydrates and fats also were a source of high energy, the rats pursued the chips most actively and the standard chow least actively. This was further evidence that some ingredient in the chips was sparking more interest in the rats than the carbs and fats mixture, said Hoch.

Team mapped the rats’ brains using Manganese-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MEMRI) to monitor brain activity. They found that the reward and addiction centres in the brain recorded the most activity. But the food intake, sleep, activity and motion areas also were stimulated significantly differently by eating the potato chips.

“By contrast, significant differences in the brain activity comparing the standard chow and the fat carbohydrate group only appeared to a minor degree and matched only partly with the significant differences in the brain activities of the standard chow and potato chips group,” added Hoch.

Since chips and other foods affect the reward centre in the brain, an explanation of why some people do not like snacks is that ‘possibly, the extent to which the brain reward system is activated in different individuals can vary depending on individual taste preferences.’ In some cases maybe the reward signal from the food is not strong enough to overrule the individual taste. And some people may simply have more willpower than others in choosing not to eat large quantities of snacks.

© American Chemical Society News

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