Food

We all have a sausage roll gene that helps us choose what food to eat

(Picture: Metro.co.uk)

Apparently, we all have a sausage roll gene which helps us choose what to eat from a buffet – and researchers think it could help promote healthy eating.

A study has found that what we select from the fridge, a buffet or menu is all down to signals in an overlooked part of the brain, which is linked with reward and pleasure.

This perception had thought to only play a secondary role when humans choose from a selection of food options, but tests have showed that the ventral pallidum in rats fired up when they were presented with their favourite sugary treats.

Neuroscientists at Johns Hopkins University in the US say their findings could be critical to understanding why some dietary options excite us and others dont.

The discovery could lead to new treatments which encourage healthy eating and combat the obesity epidemic.

Two sausage rolls on a wooden surface.
(Picture: Getty)

Lead author David Ottenheimer said: We found a region in the brain that reflects our perception of food in a strikingly dominant way. The level of brain activity we saw exceeded our expectations by far.

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Our data suggest that further investigation of ventral pallidum will be critical for understanding how we make decisions about eating.

If we want to figure out why a food can be exciting in one scenario and disappointing in another, ventral pallidum could be the key.

His team wanted to measure how the brain determines what and how much to eat, when someone has several food options with similar nutritional values.

The process happens very quickly as we move along buffets, browse restaurants menus or glance into the fridge.

Even when presented with a choice, the dish thats the favourite will likely be eaten faster and with bigger bites.

The research team found that when rats were given two similar sugary drinks for several days – their preferred sucrose and the less popular maltodextrin (food additive).

The ventral pallidum would fire up when the rats realised they were getting what they wanted. But the brain area would became disappointed and the rats didnt lick the treat faster when they realised they were drinking maltodextrin, according to the findings published in the journal, Nature Communications.

friends, men, women, garden, food, pizza, bread, salad, table, sun
(Picture: Getty)

When the scientists repeated the test with the same rats but replaced the sucrose water with plain water, they observed the same neutron activity as when the rodents realised they were drinking maltodextrin.

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These findings suggest the brain area was making context-dependent decisions, zeroing in on the best food option at any given time, according to the researchers.

Study senior author Professor Patricia Janak said: Because the signaling by ventral pallidum neurons changes immediately when the rat changes his ranking of which flavour is his favourite, we see this response as providing a real-time read-out of what you like best from currently available options.

Next on the agenda is for researchers explore if the signalling in the brain area was used to reinforce existing food-seeking actions or used to inform future decisions and bias them towards one food reward over the other.

In the meantime – sausage roll, anyone?

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