The cravings feel inevitable and unavoidable – you stand up, walk to the kitchen, open the fridge or pantry, and ponder. Although you remind yourself to consider a piece of fruit or some protein, your eyes linger on the potato chips and cookies.
If fats and sugars sometimes seem irresistible, you’re not alone. A new studypublished in Cell Metabolism, based on work by researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, shows we have two separate but parallel fat and sugar craving pathways that send signals from the gut to the brain, which light up our dopamine reward centers. Even more so, combining these pathways appears to trigger our desire to eat more than usual.
“Over the past few years, we have developed new tools to study the vagus nerve as a pathway of communication between the gut and the brain to control food intake. In this study, we used these tools to understand a simple question that we feel is at the center of the obesity epidemic: Why do we eat foods that we know are bad for us?” said study author Guillaume de Lartigue, PhD, a neuroscientist at Monell who studies the neurobiology of eating.
Excerpted from WebMD