Potato chips — the other natural way to get stoned

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Scientists have found out why people can put the brakes on eating sugar, but will go through an entire bag of potato chips, followed by a plate of fries. It turns out that fats get us stoned.

As much as extra desserts are blamed for the national waistline, it seems that most weight is gained not because of sweets, but because of fatty foods. Potato chips and french fries lead the way in American expansion, and it seems there's a reason for that. They make us feel good not just because of personal taste, but because of physical processes that start the moment they hit the tongue.

When a person tastes fatty foods, a signal goes to their brain. The brain sends it to the intestines via the vagus nerve, at which point the intestines crank up chemicals called endocannabinoids. That name sound familiar? The endocannabinoids relay a message back to the body that basically says, "Eat. Eat like your life depends on it." At one point, it did. Calorie-rich fat built up the fat in the body enough to make it through the next famine. Today, the famine never comes, and the body just keeps fattening up.


This relay of signals doesn't happen in response to sugars or proteins. Only fats turn people into gluttons in this way. This is a way, though, that can be fixed. Endocannabinoids make us feel good, when they're in our brain. Blocking the uptake of them in the brain causes depression and anxiety in humans. These endocannabinoids, however, don't ever reach the brain. They are produced in the gut, and so taking a drug that blocks the production, or uptake, of them in that particular area may not have the same effects. If researchers manage to come up with such a drug, then potato chips and fries could be eaten like a candy bar - a treat instead of a meal.

Read the full scientific article via Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


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