Sugar, not fat, is the major reason why people are drawn to unhealthy treats, a new study says.
Researchers monitored the brain activity of more than 100 teens as they drank chocolate-flavored milkshakes that had the same number of calories but were either high in sugar and low in fat, or the other way around, The New York Times reported.
Both types of shakes activated pleasure centers in the brain, but those that were high in sugar did so far more effectively and triggered a food reward network involved in compulsive eating, according to the study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The findings add to a growing body of research that’s improving understanding of what causes overeating.
“We do a lot of work on the prevention of obesity, and what is really clear not only from this study but from the broader literature over all is that the more sugar you eat, the more you want to consume it,” study lead author Eric Stice, a senior research scientist at the Oregon Research Institute, told The Times.
“As far as the ability to engage brain reward regions and drive compulsive intake, sugar seems to be doing a much better job than fat,” he said.