Brains love cakes and cookies and Krispy Kremes, and not just for their taste. Calories feel good too.
Chemical fireworks in the brain's reward system explode in response to calories, independent of flavor, suggests a new study of mice reported in the March 27 Neuron.
Even when researchers eliminated mice's ability to taste food or liquid, the mice consistently chose sugary water over the diet version. The mice were also prevented from smelling or orally sensing texture in the study, by researchers from Duke University in Durham, N.C., and the University of Porto in Portugal.
"This is a very exciting new element in how you get addicted to food," says Tamas Horvath at Yale University School of Medicine. "It doesn't even matter how it tastes."
The brains of the mice without taste receptors responded to real calories instead of low-cal sweeteners, as well. Sugar consumption increased pleasure-inducing dopamine levels in the brain within an hour in tast