Statistics show that more than two thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. More worryingly perhaps is that figures reveal around a quarter of all two to five year-olds and one-third of school-age children are also overweight or obese.
The National Center for Health Statistics show that rates of obesity have more than doubled since the 1970’s, so why are we putting on the weight?
Scientists believe that our modern diet is to blame
We all know that too much sugar or fat is bad for us, but in new studies, it is the combination of fats and sugar that proves to be the biggest threat.
Research suggests that it is foods that combine both fat and sugar that are considered to be the real danger, when it comes to over-eating.
Why are fat and sugar combined foods bad for us?
Foods that combine fat and sugar are typically never found in the natural world. They are manmade and manufactured by humans. Although these foods tend to be very high in calories and energy dense, unfortunately they are also extremely tempting and pleasurable to eat.
Humans learn to associate these feelings of pleasure with treating ourselves and feeling good when we eat them. This makes these types of foods very difficult to give up.
Studies involving rats and fats and sugar
Professor Paul Kenny, a world renowned researcher in the neurobiology of obesity and addiction, conducted several studies involving rats. In a series of experiments, the rats were given either a sugar-high diet or one high in fat. The rats were able to eat as much of either food stuff as they liked, alongside their regular healthy food.
Rats on a high sugar diet
On the sugar-high diet, although the rats gorged on the sugary foods, they tended to eat the same amount of calories as they would on a normal diet. As such, they did not gain any additional weight.
Rats on a high fat diet
On the fat-high diet, the rats did gain a little extra weight but they tended to not overeat. The rats on a high-fat diet did not eat as much as they would normally, as if their bodies were telling them the fat content was high and they should stop eating.
Rats on a high fat & sugar diet
However, when the rats were placed on a combination diet of high sugar and high fat, they stopped eating the healthy food that was there. Although they did not gorge on the sugar-fat foods, they did tend to graze on it and it became their main source of calories.
Subsequently, the rats not only gained a huge amount of weight, but they became sedentary. The rats tended to sleep a lot, and did not move around as vigorously as before.
Professor Kenny suggests that unlike the fat and sugar diets on their own, when it comes to the combination of fat and sugar, the rats had no off switch.
Why it is hard to give up foods that combine fat and sugar?
When we eat a sugary and fatty food, our brains are rewarded, and certain neural connections are triggered. Interestingly, these are the same connections that are triggered when a person takes certain drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.
These feelings are extremely powerful and are why addicts find it so difficult to give up. Our brain is telling us that we want more of these foods, and we are virtually powerless to argue.
Professor Susan Jebb, from the Oxford University agrees:
“In a world like this, where we are surrounded by fatty, sugary but delicious foods, it’s astonishing that any of us stay slim.”
Experts suggest that if you are looking to lose weight, cut down on foods that contain both fat and sugar or check out which personalised diet suits you.
Source and images courtesy: BBC i Wonder