Chips are delicious – and addictive.
Just a handful. Still a. Three more chips and I’ll quit! A short time later the pack is empty. Does that sound familiar to you?
Muriel Clarisse (47), nutritionist and head of outpatient consultation at the Department of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Metabolism at the University Hospital of Vaud, has an explanation for the phenomenon. “Chips have a high flavor value and therefore tempt people to eat more of them for purely enjoyment-oriented reasons.”
Our brain is responsible for this. Because it’s addictive to dopamine. And chips trigger a dopamine rush. Chips taste great and thus activate the nerve tracts, which then trigger the production of the happiness hormone dopamine. The high can become a kind of addiction. This in turn results in the uncontrollable urge to eat chips. The composition of the chips is essential, as Clarisse says: “It can bypass the physiological satiety mechanisms and activate the reward center in the brain.”
It’s not just chips that are bad guys
The desire for pleasure can then become addictive, explains Clarisse. Biscuits, ice cream, French fries or a bowl of peanuts can also trigger the same feeling. Striking: all the foods mentioned are rich in fat, sugar and/or salt, i.e. in flavorings that the majority of the population likes.
The consumption of french fries thus goes beyond the physiological hunger and satisfies a need where pleasure and taste are paramount. But that is not all. Chips may look very appetizing, but due to their nutrient composition, they also have a poor satiety effect. In addition, chips contain a lot of calories, which is mainly due to the high fat content and the lack of fiber.
This disturbs the feeling of satiety. This feeling is usually felt when enough nutritious food has been eaten. “By tricking this feeling, it becomes possible to keep eating chips without feeling hungry and endlessly,” says Muriel Clarisse.
No real addiction
However, eating chips cannot be compared to a real addiction. Fortunately, the difficulty of not finishing a packet of chips has little to do with withdrawal from drugs, tobacco or alcohol. “Addiction is when the act of eating becomes compulsive and uncontrollable and significant effort is made to satisfy that compelling need,” she adds. This is a very serious illness that cannot be compared to the occasional craving for chips.
Eating a lot of chips regularly is bad for your health, you gain weight quickly because the chips are low in nutrients. So should we just leave them out? “Absolutely not,” replies the nutritionist. She reminds that enjoyment is important when eating and that prohibiting it would only increase cravings for chips or other snacks. “Defending yourself against it becomes increasingly difficult and only makes you eat more compulsively when it hits you.”
Tips from the expert
But the expert has a few tips for enjoying sensible chips in the future. “The first thing to avoid is buying large amounts of chips.” She also recommends not stocking up at home, but only buying some occasionally when you feel like it. “You shouldn’t buy them because they’re currently in action.” In addition, chips should not be eaten out of the package, but arranged in portions in a bowl or on a plate. The bag should then be stored in the closet. And if the bowl is filled again, you now know why you crave chips so much.