News / USA

    Some Fatty Foods Trigger Natural High

    Fatty foods can trigger the production of endocannabinoids,  the same class of feel-good brain chemicals that marijuana stimulates in the brain.
    Fatty foods can trigger the production of endocannabinoids, the same class of feel-good brain chemicals that marijuana stimulates in the brain.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Jessica Berman

    Ever wonder why foods that are bad for you - such as fat-laced potato chips and French fries - taste so good? It turns out they follow the same pleasure-inducing biochemical pathways through the body as marijuana does, encouraging people to keep eating even when they know they should stop.

    There used to be an old television commercial in the United States that boasted a certain brand of potato chip tasted so good, you could never eat just one.  It turns out there is a biological reason for that.

    Fat is an important component of healthy human cell membranes and high-fat foods, which are rare in the wild, and were prized by early humans as a rich source of energy. As a result, says Daniele Piomelli at the University of California, Irvine, humans developed a biological preference for fatty foods.

    “The mechanisms that have evolved to make animals eat as much as possible now are turning against us because now fat is everywhere," says Piomelli. "We have fat in our refrigerators, in our cabinets in the kitchen and it is very easy for us to eat too much of it because of this long evolution that has taught us that it is rare and hard to find.”

    Piomelli's team has discovered a biological pathway that encouraged ancient humans to eat large quantities of the scarce nutrient - whenever they found it - to ensure their survival. Today, eating fat still provokes feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, similar to the high people get when smoking marijuana.

    According to Piomelli, when fatty foods are swallowed and hit the upper digestive tract, they trigger the production of endocannabinoids. That's the same class of feel-good chemicals that marijuana, or cannabis, stimulates in the brain.

    Endocannabinoids in the gut send a surge of cell-signaling to the brain, which shoots back a message telling the body to keep eating.

    Piomelli's team discovered the fat pathway in research with rats. The rats didn’t like sugar water or water laced with protein as much as they liked oily water. The animals continued to consume the oil water until they were full, which is the body’s natural signal to stop eating.

    But since fats contain more calories than carbohydrates or proteins combined, waiting for satiety, or fullness, is not necessarily the best strategy to limit consumption of fatty foods.

    Piomelli says researchers are interested in developing drugs that target endocannabinoids in the digestive tract to help people with their fatty food cravings.

    “When some people eat fat, they eat it in large amounts - for example a pint of ice cream or a whole bag of potato chips.  And hopefully by using these type of medications, we can decrease overweight and obesity.”

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora