Potato Chips, Why You Can't Eat Just One
You may be familiar with the uncontrollable urge to keep devouring potato chips after eating just one, and you may have wondered why you couldn’t stop. Well, put down that bag and read on, as scientists have discovered some things about why you can’t eat just one chip.
What’s special about potato chips?
When it comes to potato chips, it seems that people and rats can’t stop eating them, according to a research team at FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Germany. The experts presented their findings at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society gathering.
The phenomenon associated with eating for pleasure and an inability to stop eating even when not hungry is called hedonic hyperphagia. According to Tobias Hoch, PhD, who headed the study, this eating problem affects hundreds of millions of people in the world, and “the chronic form is a key factor in the epidemic of overweight and obesity.”
To explore this phenomenon, the scientists provided one group of rats with regular rat chow and the other with crushed potato chips. Use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the rats’ brains showed the animals who chowed down on the potato chips had different brain activity.
In fact, when rats were then given a mixture of fat and carbohydrates similar to those found in potato chips, the rats liked the mixture, but they still reacted more aggressively to the potato chips. This led Hoch to conclude that the fat and carbs in potato chips only partially explain the attraction and that “there must be something else in the chips that make them so desirable.” What’s special about potato chips?
That “something else” also was evident on the MRI scans. When the rats ate potato chips, areas of the brain associated with reward, addiction, sleep, food intake, motion, and activity were stimulated significantly differently than they were when the rats ate chow.
Potato chips and people
Many foods can activate the reward center in the brain, such as chocolate, ice cream, macaroni and cheese, and French fries. These so-called comfort foods have a common denominator—a high content of fat and carbohydrates.
However, as this rat study showed, fat and carbohydrates were not the only reason the rats were so drawn to the potato chips. When it comes to people, there is a general tendency to gravitate toward sweet and fatty foods, but there also is a great deal of difference among people’s preferences for these foods, and the reasons for this are not fully understood.
Even so, the findings of this latest study may help researchers uncover the reason why some people don’t engage in hedonic hyperphagia and more important, identify the triggers so scientists may eventually find a way to help people stop this practice and hopefully fight overweight and obesity. Until then, you might want to reconsider buying that bag of potato chips, especially if you can’t eat just one.
American Chemical Society