February 22, 2009

Soft Serve

With HFCS recently off the hook as the proximate cause of obesity, we're left to wonder why so many in the developed world are getting so fat so quickly. Maybe it's because the food isn't working our jaws enough. Harvard doctor Richard Wrangham presented a paper at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting whose central assertion was that cooked food is more easily digested than raw. But he also found that something as simple as eating softened food caused significant weight gain (in rats). Via the Economist (and ObFo):
[T]he experimenters ground up food pellets and then recompacted them to make them softer. Rats fed on the softer pellets weighed 30% more after 26 weeks than those fed the same weight of standard pellets. The difference was because of the lower cost of digestion. Indeed, Dr Wrangham suspects the main cause of the modern epidemic of obesity is not overeating (which the evidence suggests--in America, at least--is a myth) but the rise of processed foods. These are softer, because that is what people prefer. Indeed, the nerves from the taste buds meet in a part of the brain called the amygdala with nerves that convey information on the softness of food. It is only after these two qualities have been compared that the brain assesses how pleasant a mouthful actually is.
So, yes, we're eating more calories, but it may really be the processing that's done us in. As a result, efficiency is at an all time high in precisely the area we don't want it: our digestion. I think I'll stick to the hard stuff.

Photo by randomduck used under CC license

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, "overeating... is a myth" and "we're eating more calories". Clarify, pls.

Blogger tlaskawy said...

The Economist said the first part. But I said the second. You can judge for yourself which is more accurate.

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