The science of "Bet you can't eat just one!"

A few years ago, Lay's Potato Chips threw down the gauntlet in a new advertising campaign:  "Bet you can't eat just one!"


It was a clever slogan--and had a clever commercial to match.  But I think the line resonated so much because it's true.  It's quite difficult to eat just one chip.  You open the bag and, before you know it, you've somehow eaten the whole bag.  Even when you didn't think you were all that hungry.

(Full disclaimer:  My personal downfall lies in a bag of Doritos, not potato chips, but the rule still applies).

The act of eating for pleasure, without hunger and often to excess, is called "hedonic hyperphagia."  And researchers at FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg decided to take a closer look at why snacks like potato chips often prove to be so irresistible. 

Tobias Hoch and colleagues used magnetic resonance imaging to compare groups of rats:  some who received a feast of potato chips and others who had plain old rat chow.  They found that the chips' high ratio of fats and carbohydrates led to the reward centers of the brain lighting up more than when the animals had access to just the chow.

But Hoch thought there must be something more to it than just fat and carbs--the leading hypothesis of why we love our chips so much.  So he and his colleagues then compared animal chow, a mixture of fat and carbs, and potato chips.  The rats still went crazy for the chips.  And when they looked at the imaging results, they found that there was more than just the reward centers being activated in those potato chip loving brains--food intake, sleep activity and motion centers also received extra blood flow.

Why this is happening is still up in the air.  But if scientists can get a better handle on what is in these snacks that triggers overeating, they can perhaps develop compounds that can block them. 

Photo credit:  Aerostato/Shutterstock.com

Why a federal judge ordered White House to restore Jim Acosta's press badge

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration likely violated the reporter's Fifth Amendment rights when it stripped his press credentials earlier this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
  • The judge described the ruling as narrow, and didn't rule one way or the other on violations of the First Amendment.
  • The case is still open, and the administration may choose to appeal the ruling.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Water may be an inevitable result of the process that forms rocky planets

New research identifies an unexpected source for some of earth's water.

Surprising Science
  • A lot of Earth's water is asteroidal in origin, but some of it may come from dissolved solar nebula gas.
  • Our planet hides majority of its water inside: two oceans in the mantle and 4–5 in the core.
  • New reason to suspect that water is abundant throughout the universe.
Keep reading Show less