How many times have you sat down in front of the television with a bag of chips to watch a movie or your favorite show with the intentions of only eating a few chips... and ended up eating half the bag or more? It's happened to most of us at one time or another and it probably happens more often than we like to admit. One of the problems is that when we are engaged in our favorite show, we are not really paying attention to how much we eat and end up eating way more than a normal portion size. However, a recent study suggests that fatty foods like regular potato chips and French fries set a series of biochemical processes in motion that trigger us to continue eating and as a result over indulge.
In this new study of dietary fat intake, researchers tested the impact that different meal-types had on nerve stimulation and the production of chemicals called endocannabinoids, natural marijuana-like chemicals produced in our bodies. According to the study results and an associated press release, rats who were fed a meal rich in dietary fat stimulated the production of endocannabinoids from the gut, which prompts the additional consumption of fatty foods. A similar effect was observed with the consumption of nutritionally complete meal; however, carbohydrates and proteins did not trigger the production of endocannabinoids in the gut. The researchers further reported that the process involves the nervous system since blocking a particular nerve, the vagus nerve, prevented the impact of dietary fat on endocannabinoid production. Apparently, the taste of dietary fat sends a signal to the brain and down the vagus nerve to the gut, which produces the endocannabinoids that further stimulate the intake of fatty foods.
Based on this signaling pathway, blocking the production of endocannabinoids should break this vicious cycle of fatty food consumption. To test this theory, the researchers treated the rats with a chemical capable of blocking the actions of the endocannabinoids. Treatment with this blocking agent resulted in a reduced intake of dietary fat, further pointing out the importance of endocannabinoids in the over consumption of fatty foods.
While we clearly do not have control of what chemicals our body makes, becoming more aware of how the foods we eat affect our body's functions is an important step to gaining greater control of our eating habits. An earlier study reported that potato chips are one of the main foods responsible for weight gain. This new research suggests that this link between eating potato chips and body weight is partly due to the chemicals our body makes in response to the amount of fat in the potato chips. Therefore, choosing potato chips low in fat and being careful to only eat small portions of potato chips (and other foods high in saturated fat) are steps we can all take towards developing healthier eating habits.
Aaron Tabor, MD
Diet, Anti-Aging, and Nutritional Cosmetic Expert
Author of Dr. Tabor's Diet and FIGHT NOW.
Learn more about Dr. Tabor's diet and anti-aging research at www.DrTabor.com.
Learn more about Dr. Tabor's breast cancer prevention book at www.fightBCnow.com.