Processed Food. The brains at the University of Bristol decided to dig into our munchie preferences. They wanted to see if fancy processing and calorie counts really make us drool over certain foods more.
No Super Love for Processed Stuff
Prof Peter Rogers, the big boss of the study, pointed out that the whole idea of ultra-processed foods being mega-tasty hadn’t really been tested. So, they rounded up 224 grown-ups to give their take on different nosh.
The Food Test
They flashed pics of about 24 to 32 foods, from avocados to ice-cream. These goodies varied in calories, how processed they were (yeah, including those ultra-processed ones), and the fat-to-carb ratio.
The volunteers had to rate these foods based on how much they liked them, how badly they wanted to munch on them, and how sweet or salty they imagined these treats would be.
Not So Extra Tasty After All
The scoop? Turns out, the super-processed foods didn’t win any taste contests. People didn’t fancy them more than the regular or unprocessed ones.
What Makes Us Drool?
Here’s the twist: the study showed that foods with bolder flavors, especially those with more sweetness or saltiness, got more love. They found that things like the balance of carbs and fats, the amount of fiber, and how intense the taste was played a big part in what we dig.
Why We Love Certain Foods
Prof Rogers summed it up, saying, “Seems we’re wired to like foods that pack equal bits of carbs and fats but not so much fiber. They don’t fill us up as much for the calories they pack. Basically, we care more about calories than feeling full.”
Double-Checking the Results
The team made sure their way of testing was solid. They nailed it by matching up how much we thought something would be sweet with how much sugar it actually had. That confirmed they were onto something with their method.
The Big Worries About Processed Foods
We’ve been freaking out about everyone chowing down on processed stuff like it’s going out of style. It’s become more than half of what folks eat in places like the UK and US.
What It Means for Health
Fancy studies have linked those ultra-processed goodies—think ice-cream and ready meals—to bad health news like cancer, packing on the pounds, and heart issues. But hold up: some processed foods, like bread and cereals, might not be all that bad. Other research says they could actually be good for you.
So, the bottom line? This study throws a wrench in the idea that super-processed foods are automatically super-yum. It shows that what makes us crave food goes way beyond just how much it’s been processed. Factors like flavors, the mix of carbs and fats, and even how much fiber’s in the mix have a say in what we can’t wait to eat.