In food cravings, sugar trumps fat

true or false?

Is it the sweet flavour that our taste buds are after? Or the smooth and creamy texture? Or perhaps it is the copious blend of fat and sugar?

An intriguing new study suggests that what really draws people to such treats, and prompts them to eat much more than perhaps they know they should, is not the fat that they contain, but primarily the sugar.

The new research tracked brain activity in more than 100 high school students as they drank chocolate-flavored milkshakes that were identical in calories but either high in sugar and low in fat, or vice versa. While both kinds of shakes lit up pleasure centers in the brain, those that were high in sugar did so far more effectively, firing up a food-reward network that plays a role in compulsive eating.

To their surprise, the researchers found that sugar was so powerful a stimulus that it overshadowed fat, even when the two were combined in large amounts.  “The more sugar you eat, the more you want to consume it,” said Dr. Stice, a senior research scientist at the Oregon Research Institute.

The new findings add to a growing number of brain studies that are providing a more complex understanding of what drives people to overeat in the first place. These results may help explain why millions of people who diet and struggle to lose weight ultimately fail.

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