Donuts, chips, fries, hot dogs, etc. are famously known as junk foods. Scientist have come up with a different title for these foods; hyper-palatable foods. Why do we tend to crave these foods? Is it a test to see how much self-control we can practice? Scientists have finally revealed why we can't just say no to one chip. This could be the first step towards fighting childhood obesity. It turns out that most of the foods consumed in the United States are made with ingredients that are purposely mixed for us to want more.
Childhood obesity is an American epidemic. More than one-third of American children and teens are overweight or obese, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity causes disease and other chronic health problems, along with social issues like depression and low self-esteem; caused by bullying.
The idea that some foods are addicting is not new though. As mentioned above, food companies presumably study the perfect mix of ingredients to get their consumers reaching for more. That essential piece of information was kept under wraps from the public. Scientific researchers have now pinned down three ingredient combinations that trick the brain into eating more, even when the body is full.
"Hyper-palatable" refers to taste of foods that light up the brain's reward center, overriding the body's hunger and fullness signals. In other words, the food is addicting. The ingredient combinations that refer to hyper-palatable are specific ratios of: fats and sodium, fats and simple sugars, and carbohydrates and sodium.
It turns out that a whopping 62-percent of foods making up the typical American diet, fit into these three categories. Seventy-percent of these foods were a combination of fats and sodium; like hot dogs and bacon.
Information like this could be used to lobby for warnings labels on foods. It is vital for parents to know the ingredients in the packaged foods they are purchasing. If there are clear-cut labels stating that specific foods are addicting, it makes it easier for parents to make better choices in foods for their kids.
Going further, older children could be educated on these ingredients, so that when they are in the cafeteria they are able to make the choice for themselves. Normally, kids choose junk food because it tastes good. They aren't asking themselves if it's good for them or not. Education on these foods and healthier choices helps children be informed. At this point, more research is needed before scientists could present their data to lawmakers, but it's a definite a step in the right direction.