If you’re like most people, you light up when you hear words like “chocolate brownie” and “strawberry cheesecake.” But why? What is it about these foods that make them so delectable that even when you’ve stuffed your face with an 18-inch pizza (all to yourself), you’ve still got room for more? How can anything be THAT good?
It turns out that sugary, fatty desserts have a unique way of messing with your brain. Unlike food that is just high in sugar or high in fat, it’s the combination of both that makes dessert so morish.
Most people think of things like cakes and chocolate as high-sugar foods. While that’s true, it’s also true that in many cases more calories come from fat than sugar. Added sugar might make up 35 percent of the calories in a chocolate brownie, but fat calories could top 45 or even 50 percent.
When you think about it, the modishness of high-sugar, high-fat foods chimes with your broader experience. You love cookies, doughnuts, chocolate candies, and ice cream. All of these items contain mountains of both fat and sugar – the combination of which is almost irresistible.
But, of course, all that enjoyment in the mouth can have a damaging effect on the rest of your body. Here’s how.
Fatty, Sugary Desserts Mess With Your Sphincters
A sphincter is a not-so-elegant name that medical professionals give to the rings of muscle along your alimentary canal (stomach) that open and close to control the movement of food. There’s a sphincter at the entrance to your stomach which, in theory, allows food to travel down into the stomach and prevents stomach acid from leaking back up.
We say “in theory” because that’s not what happens in practice, especially if you have a habit of eating decadent desserts. When you don’t get enough fiber in your diet, your bowel has to exert more force on the inside of your abdomen to move stools along, especially when you’re on the toilet. All this additional pressure has the effect of pushing the stomach sphincter up above the diaphragm – the patch of muscle below the lungs that controls breathing. When this happens, it prevents the sphincter from working properly, increasing the chance of stomach acid rising and causing damage to your gullet.
Many people with this condition go onto have acid reflux treatment to try to resolve it, but it is best to avoid it altogether by eating lots of fiber.
Fatty, Sugary Desserts Bypass Your Body’s Satiation Mechanisms
Humans evolved with the ability to detect when they had enough calories, and when they needed more. Having enough calories is essential for passing on your genes to the next generation. And eating too many could make you gain weight, compromising your ability to survive in the wild. The combination of sugar and fat without fiber bypasses our body’s calorie detection mechanisms. Desserts don’t fill the stomach in the same way as, say, a bowl of red rice and beans, meaning that you can take in many more calories than you need.