Why do we like unhealthy food so much?

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Couldn’t our biological organisms just prefer the healthy food? It would give us larger chance of survival so genes preferring healthy food should be more popular.

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Anonymous 0 Comments

Hey OP good timing. This article was out in yesterdays NYTimes and I think it really does a good job of answering your question – particularly the Cheesecake Park experiment with the rats was eye opening, yet really reflected my eating patterns and junk food. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/07/opinion/ozempic-weight-loss-drugs.html](https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/07/opinion/ozempic-weight-loss-drugs.html)

One scientific experiment — which I have nicknamed Cheesecake Park — seemed to me to crystallize this effect. Paul Kenny, a neuroscientist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, grew up in Ireland. After he moved in 2000 to the United States, when he was in his 20s, he gained 30 pounds in two years. He began to wonder if the American diet has some kind of strange effect on our brains and our cravings, so he [designed an experiment](https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20348917/) to test it. He and his colleague Paul Johnson raised a group of rats in a cage and gave them an abundant supply of healthy, balanced rat chow made out of the kind of food rats had been eating for a very long time. The rats would eat it when they were hungry, and then they seemed to feel sated and stopped. They did not become fat.

But then Dr. Kenny and his colleague exposed the rats to an American diet: fried bacon, Snickers bars, cheesecake and other treats. They went crazy for it. The rats would hurl themselves into the cheesecake, gorge themselves and emerge with their faces and whiskers totally slicked with it. They quickly lost almost all interest in the healthy food, and the restraint they used to show around healthy food disappeared. Within six weeks, their obesity rates soared.

After this change, Dr. Kenny and his colleague tweaked the experiment again (in a way that seems cruel to me, a former KFC addict). They took all the processed food away and gave the rats their old healthy diet. Dr. Kenny was confident that they would eat more of it, proving that processed food had expanded their appetites. But something stranger happened. It was as though the rats no longer recognized healthy food as food at all, and they barely ate it. Only when they were starving did they reluctantly start to consume it again.

Though Dr. Kenny’s study was in rats, we can see forms of this behavior everywhere. We are all living in Cheesecake Park.

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