26 January 2011,

Sensory Specific Satiety: Why We Like Lots of Different Kinds of Junk Food Rather Than No Fat Foods

So, today’’s post is going to be a Coles Notes to Sensory Specific Satiety, and I am going to do my best to explain why certain ‘healthy, no fat’ foods are best avoided in the name of consuming fewer calories.

I’’ll start off by warning you: flavoured rice cakes are a killer for Sensory Specific Satiety. Despite their low fat health claims, I am going to categorize them with French Fries and Ice Cream. That makes it pretty clear. They are the Devil’’s Toy. Read on, and I will explain…It will also make you (hopefully) think of other ˊhealthyˊ, no fat foods that share a similar flavour profile. The first thing that comes to my mind is sweet cereals, but I am sure of this ˊtypeˊ of food there are many.

The Very Basics of Pleasure- Driven eating:

1. Salt and sugar are mu opioid stimulators. This means they release dopamine, likely in the ventral striatum of you brain. This explains why we ‘like’ them. I wanted to offer you a greater explanation than to simply say, ‘We like them because they taste good.’
2. Pleasure is magnified when sugar and salt are mixed with fat (also called the Emulsion Pleasure Theory) {Grigson, 2002 #739}
3. Junk Food = Salt + Fat + Sugar.  Junk Food typically does not include protein, high glycemic index sugars work the best
4. Fat + Carbohydrate drives the greatest amount of pleasure
5. Distinctive Aroma enhances memory

Oh, and before I forget:
i. Heroin, morphine, alcohol and cannabinoids interact with this system.

So, let’s try this model out with a few foods.

Example A: French Fries from fast food restaurants
French Fries= Salt + Carbohydrate + Fat, and also a smidge of sugar (for browning)
a. salt is directly, immediately rewarding
b. carbohydrates + fat is also intensely rewarding
c. there is little to no protein
d. the aroma is instantaneously recognized, and resistant to Sensory Specific Extinction

Example B: Ice Cream

Vanilla is said to be the most popular flavour. It is resistant to Sensory Specific Satiety (you don’’t get sick of it), and this allows for infinite topping choices. Vanilla doesn’’t clash with strawberry the same way chocolate can, after all.
a. It is high in fat, sugar, and even salt (quel surprise!)
b. The contrast between the flavour in your mouth is appealing
c. As the temperature changes, the flavour changes too.
d. The aroma of ice cream parlors is instantly rewarding (typically a mix between vanilla, sometimes chocolate, and maybe cinnamon).

Just so you know, Iˊm not even going to approach the subject of Chocolate. Chocolate deserves an entire week. I can also tell you my own annecdotal experiences working in an Eating Lab when we assessed the pleasantness of Maltesers, when I had just moved to England. Letˊs just say it involves a thief, many bags of missing Maltesers, and a few pairs of too-small jeans…

I digress. Back to rice cakes!

Example C: What happens when there is little fat in the product? Like Rice Cakes?

a. The flavour toppings activate almost every known taste receptor (salt, sugar, MSG, garlic powder, cheeses, caramel, even chocolate flavours)
b. acids (lactic, citric, buttermilk, tomatoe solids)
c. very rapid mouth melt down
d. vanishing caloric density (you can eat loads, and they won’’t fill you up)
e. The complexity of the Rice Cake powder flavour reduces Sensory Specific Satiety, paired with vanishing caloric density makes this the type of food you just cannot stop eating.

Regardless of whether it is fat free, no fat foods are unlikely to be calorie free. I know this is a message thrust upon you by many other weight related professionals. I hope that illustrating the specific role that pleasure has on eating will help you understand why you must avoid this type of food if you are trying to reduce your total caloric intake.

Tomorrow, I will focus on foods that are vulnerable to Sensory Specific Satiety (i.e. those that are boring to eat, and are also filling).
In other words, am I advising that you eat boring unpleasant foods?

Yes. Have fun with the wood chip carrot sticks and oatmeal. I will be embarking upon the same slightly horrible regime, until, they make protein, high fibre, low calorie, high vitamin, low energy dense Maltesers, that is.

2 responses on “Eating Boring/No Fat Foods, My Advice about Sensory Specific Satiety

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