There are 2 reasons why we find eating enjoyable:
First of all, eating food gives us a certain sensation. It involves the taste (sweet, salty, etc.), the smell, and the way it feels as you eat it. Also known as Orosensation, a meal’s feel can be very important.
Millions are spent each year by food companies trying to figure out the most satisfying crunchiness level of chips. There are scientists who work all day to discover the ideal fizzle amount in your soda. Such factors combine into the sensation you associate with a drink or food.
Secondly, the food’s macro-nutrient composition is also extremely important. This is the mix of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins inside it. When it comes to junk food, manufacturers seek the ideal combination of fat, sugar, and salt to trigger your brain into wanting more.
The Science of Cravings
There are many factors manufacturers of food and scientists utilize to serve you more addictive food.
One of the methods they use is called Dynamic contrast, implying creating food that combines multiple sensations. Foods that have a dynamic contrast contain a crunchy shell with something creamy and soft in the middle. It also contains a lot of taste compounds. This is applicable to many of your most liked foods: pizza, Oreos, crème brulees, etc.
Foods that cause you to salivate more also seem to be more desirable, as well as those that dissolve easily in your mouth, because your brain interprets this as eating less than the actual amount.
The faster a meal disappears in your mouth, the more desirable it is. It’s the ‘vanishing’ or melting effect some foods have, which tricks your mind into thinking you’re eating less. Although you’re ingesting a ton of calories, you still don’t feel full.
The more you taste something, the less you want to eat it. It may take days for this to happen or just a few minutes. However, junk foods skip this sensory response. They are tasty enough to be appealing to your brain, but not so much as to dull out the response of your sensors. Because of this, you can eat bags after bags of chips and still crave more. The sensation remains fresh no matter how many times you eat them.
When you eat junk food, due to its calorie density, the brain thinks its receiving nutrients, but never enough of them. Your stomach and mouth receptors inform your mind the meal you are ingesting has fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. But the amount is never too small or too big. It doesn’t make you feel full unless you eat a ton of it.
Also, there is a feeling your brain associates to each food you eat. Once you get a taste of something good, your mind takes not of the feeling. A few days later, when you see that meal again or smell it, hear or read about it, you’re suddenly hit with responses and memories from the last time you had it. You start to salivate and crave after it.
Junk food companies spend millions on creating new addictive meals. All these factors, and many others, are designed to make you overeat, get unhealthy, fat, and still crave more.
Next time, we’ll discuss the long and very short term effects of these foods on your brain.