This week, Food Reward Friday is going to be a little bit different. I've received a few e-mails from people who would like to see me write about some of the less obvious examples of food reward-- foods that are less extreme, but much more common, and that nevertheless promote overeating. Let's face it, even though they're funny and they (sometimes) illustrate the principle, most people reading this blog don't eat banana splits very often, much less pizzas made out of hot dogs.
So this week's "winner" is something many of you have in your houses right now, and which was also the subject of an interesting recent study... potato chips!
From a food reward perspective, potato chips are a deadly combination: very high calorie density, fat, starch, salt, and a nice crunch. One bite leads to another. They're a snack food that often adds to total calorie intake rather than replacing other foods. From a health perspective, despite my love for potatoes, potato chips don't hit the mark. They're deep-fried, usually in refined seed oils, and they encourage overconsumption. By comparison, fresh potatoes are highly satiating per calorie (unless you put a bunch of calorie-dense stuff on them), oppose overconsumption, and are not usually eaten as snack foods. This is due to their lower calorie density and lower palatability.
Humans love potato chips, but not as much as rats do!! In the next post, I'll describe an interesting recent study in which researchers examined the brain activity of rats exposed to potato chips, a highly rewarding/palatable food.