Our Brains Have Evolved to Want High Fat, High Carb Foods

Grant Boone
June 17, 2018

This does not stop our brains from craving fat-rich and sugar loaded foods finds a new study.

Dana Small, director of the Modern Diet and Physiology Research Center at the university, was the senior author of the study.

"Liking has nothing to do with this response", Small told NBC News.

"People were really good at estimating how many calories were in fat, but they were bad at estimating how many calories were in different carbohydrate foods", 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".

The reason behind this could be as the brain tends to value food items like the donuts which contain both carbohydrates and fats more than the items that contain high levels off just fats such as cheese or just carbohydrates such as pretzels.

Absolutely LOVE hot chips? Blame your brain for doing what it's meant to

"Foods containing fats and carbohydrates appear to signal their potential caloric loads to the brain via distinct mechanisms", she said.

The team also showed which parts of the brain are responsible for this greedy response.

In the course of the study, the team of German and USA researchers invited 40 participants to play a computer simulation where they would bid money in order to secure a reward of food with different calorific qualities. The participants were also asked to pick their favorite foods from this list of 39 foods. Their brains were scanned using fMRI scanning while they looked at the pictures. Others were mostly carbs - think white bread or sugary candy.

Both in terms of the money offered in the game and the MRI results obtained, participants in the experiment showcased a strong conscious and neuronal preference for food which was simultaneously heavy in fat and carbohydrates. Turns out our brains are programmed to respond to them.

Basically, your brain response to carbohydrate-fat combinations is greater than it should be, based on the number of calories you derive from them - these combos lit up the reward circuitry in participants' brains more than their favourite foods, a potentially sweeter or energy-dense food, or a larger portion size. However, those kinds of foods do not automatically produce more calories. However, they weren't very good at estimating how many calories there were in foods that were high in both fats and carbs, which could explain why it's hard to know when to stop eating them.

Modern life can confuse the human brain, which evolved when people had to forage for food and rarely ate different foods together at the same meal, the researchers noted.

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