Personal development

Give me that Cadbury Bar – Why might we prefer fatty foods over fibre rich and water laden vegetables.

Women are notorious for reaching for that forbidden chocolate bar even with the knowledge of an impending black tie dinner party. It seems that we Venusians (Women) are not the only ones having difficulties resisting fatty foods!

A study conducted by Drewnowski in 1995 concluded that men of all sizes tend to obtain more fat from savoury food choices (ie. fat and protein combinations ) whilst women tended to derive more of their dietary fats from fat and sugar compounds such as desserts and chocolate!  Could this be a genetic disposition in that women with ‘sweet tooths’ are not driven as much by the sugar content alone,  but the synergistic effect of sugar and fat in combination?! Oh dear, no wonder all the resistance in the world is not enough to keep me away from my chocolate cake!!!!

It is common knowledge that our civilisation has evolved many folds over our biological equivalent, leaving us with outdated primeval instincts to desire energy dense food for survival. At birth we already have a preference for the sweet, as children we begin to show preferences for flavours associated with high energy content foods.  This is useful to fulfil our high metabolic demands in times of rapid growth and development. The problem lies with our ability to attach emotions and subsequent sentimental value to our childhood memories. And nothing can evoke good memories better than food.

In addition to our emotions, fat perception also delivers a pleasant sensorial experience for many of us. It has been found that we have special areas in our brains to process information on how food feels in our mouths, its odor and thickness, and lo and behold, pleasantness of fat! Fat makes dairy appear more creamy, gives food a perception of substance, and contains fat soluble flavour volatiles that would contribute to an extra dimension of odors as we chew our food. Our enjoyment of food flavour is largely contributed by flavour molecules travelling up our nasal cavity and hitting the olfactory receptors, in other words allowing us to ‘smell’ the flavours of our food. Without this, food would appear bland just like they are when you are having a cold!

A study of 25 young men and women indicated that we show a preference for high fat foods despite difficulties in estimating the sample’s fat content accurately in solid foods. Fatty foods also tend to be more palatable, hence making it easier to try them for the first time and difficult to stop consumption even though our calorific requirements are being satisfied!

In conclusion, we prefer fat-rich foods not only because of our genetic predisposition, but also due to developmental, physiological (what our bodies are like), and our attitudes towards food choice. Fat is essential for a healthy body and mind, but it seems like over consumption is far too possible. However, we don’t have to act as we prefer. As mammals of higher reasoning power, and armed with this knowledge, we can keep a close rein on our fatty foods desires and show them who’s boss!


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