What makes potato chips addictive?

Many people may wonder why, when sitting with a bag of potato chips, it seems almost impossible to have only one. The reason for this inability to stop eating may not just be habit: There could be science behind it, found in the food itself.

The danger of junk food
According to a King Features Syndicate column, eating junk food is a real danger. The source notes how people in the U.S. are seemingly addicted to snacks that are high in fat and sugar. In order to deter this, they suggest giving up at least one treat per week and increasing physical activity. Figuring out why these foods are addictive may also be advantageous.

A scientific condition may keep people eating
At a meeting of the American Chemical Society, Tobias Hoch, Ph.D., explained why potato chips may have this effect. Hoch conducted a study that looked into the condition, referred to as “hedonic hyperphagia.”

“It’s recreational over-eating that may occur in almost everyone at some time in life,” Hoch said. “And the chronic form is a key factor in the epidemic of overweight and obesity that here in the U.S. threatens health problems for two out of every three people.”

Hoch, along with other researchers in Erlangen, Germany used rats to test how this over-eating worked. The team gave one half of the rats potato chips to eat and the other half plain rat food.

The researchers looked at the brain activity of these rats to see how their reactions differed based on what they ate. They discovered that the reward and addiction brain centers of the potato chip group were most active.

Previously, researchers believed that fat and carbohydrates made people want to eat. The scientists claim that the levels of both these were the same in the potato chips and the rodent chow. Therefore, something else may have been a culprit.

Though scientists were unable to identify the specific element that accounted for the chip consumption, they did note the effect that it had in the reward centers of rats’ brains. The study concluded that because individuals get reward signals from the food, they feel attracted to it.

Finding the reason behind people’s desire to snack on junk food may help stop this bad habit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 715,000 people in the U.S. have a heart attack every year. By promoting good health, and eliminating fatty foods like potato chips, more individuals may avoid this issue.

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