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.


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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America