Does Good Tasting Food Cause Weight Gain?

Summary: Researchers question whether eating ‘good tasting’ foods drives overeating leading to obesity.

Source: Monell Chemical Senses Center.

Monell study suggests palatable tastes do not drive long-term overeating.

Does eating good-tasting food make you gain weight? Despite the common perception that good-tasting food is unhealthy and causes obesity, new research from the Monell Center using a mouse model suggests that desirable taste in and of itself does not lead to weight gain.

“Most people think that good-tasting food causes obesity, but that is not the case. Good taste determines what we choose to eat, but not how much we eat over the long-term,” said study senior author Michael Tordoff, PhD, a physiological psychologist at Monell.

Researchers who study obesity have long known that laboratory rodents fed a variety of tasty human foods, such as chocolate chip cookies, potato chips and sweetened condensed milk, avidly overeat the good-tasting foods and become obese.

These studies have provided support for the common belief that tasty food promotes overeating and ensuing weight gain. However, because no study had separated the positive sensory qualities of the appetizing foods from their high sugar and fat content, it was impossible to know if the taste was actually driving the overeating.

Accordingly, Tordoff and colleagues designed a series of experiments to assess the role of taste in driving overeating and weight gain. The findings are published online ahead of print in the journal Physiology & Behavior.

The researchers first established that laboratory mice strongly like food with added nonnutritive sweet or oily tastes. To do this they gave mice two cups of food. One group of mice had a choice between a cup of plain rodent chow and a cup of chow mixed with the noncaloric sweetener sucralose. The other group received a choice between a cup of plain rodent chow and a cup of chow mixed with mineral oil, which also has no calories.

potato chips

Researchers who study obesity have long known that laboratory rodents fed a variety of tasty human foods, such as chocolate chip cookies, potato chips and sweetened condensed milk, avidly overeat the good-tasting foods and become obese. Neurosciencenews image is for illustrative purposes only.

The mice ignored the plain chow and ate almost all of their food from the cups containing the sweetened or oily chow, establishing that these non-caloric tastes were indeed very appealing.

Next, new groups of mice received one of the three diets for six weeks: one group was fed plain chow, one group was fed chow with added sucralose, and one group was fed chow with added mineral oil. At the end of this period, the groups fed the sweet or oily chow were no heavier or fatter than were the animals fed the plain chow.

Additional tests revealed that even after six weeks, the animals still highly preferred the taste-enhanced diets, demonstrating the persistent strong appeal of both sweet and oily tastes.

In another experiment, the researchers fed mice a high-fat diet that is known to make mice obese. Mice fed this high-fat diet sweetened with sucralose got no fatter than did those fed the plain version.

“Even though we gave mice delicious diets over a prolonged period, they did not gain excess weight. People say that ‘if a food is good-tasting it must be bad for you,’ but our findings suggest this is not the case. It should be possible to create foods that are both healthy and good-tasting,” said Tordoff.

About this neuroscience research article

Funding: Also contributing to the research, which was supported by Monell Center institutional funds, were Monell scientists Jordan Pearson, Hillary Ellis and Rachel Poole.

Source: Leslie Stein – Monell Chemical Senses Center
Image Source: This NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Does eating good-tasting food influence body weight?” by Michael G. Tordoff, Jordan A. Pearson, Hillary T. Ellis, and Rachel L. Poole in Physiology and Behavior. Published online December 15 20156 doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.12.013

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
Monell Chemical Senses Center. “Does Good Tasting Food Cause Weight Gain?.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 15 December 20156.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/overeating-taste-food-5757/>.
Monell Chemical Senses Center. (20156, December 15). Does Good Tasting Food Cause Weight Gain?. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved December 15, 20156 from http://neurosciencenews.com/overeating-taste-food-5757/
Monell Chemical Senses Center. “Does Good Tasting Food Cause Weight Gain?.” http://neurosciencenews.com/overeating-taste-food-5757/ (accessed December 15, 20156).

Abstract

Does eating good-tasting food influence body weight?

Does eating good-tasting food influence body weight? To investigate, we first established some concentrations of sucralose and mineral oil in chow that mice strongly preferred. Then, in Experiment 1, we compared groups of 16 mice fed plain chow (i.e., chow with no additives) to groups fed chow with added (a) sucralose, (b) mineral oil, (c) sucralose and mineral oil, or (d) sucralose on odd days and mineral oil on even days. During a 6-week test, the body weights and body compositions of the five groups never differed. In Experiment 2, we compared groups of 18 mice fed plain chow or plain high-fat diet to groups fed these diets with added sucralose. During a 9-week test, the high-fat diet caused weight gain, but the body weights of mice fed the sucralose-sweetened diets did not differ from those fed the corresponding plain versions. Two-cup choice tests conducted at the end of each experiment showed persisting strong preferences for the diets with added sucralose and/or mineral oil. In concert with earlier work, our results challenge the hypothesis that the orosensory properties of a food influence body weight gain. A good taste can stimulate food intake acutely, and guide selection toward nutrient-dense foods that cause weight gain, but it does not determine how much is eaten chronically.

“Does eating good-tasting food influence body weight?” by Michael G. Tordoff, Jordan A. Pearson, Hillary T. Ellis, and Rachel L. Poole in Physiology and Behavior. Published online December 15 20156 doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.12.013

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