In a new study conducted by brain researcher Fabian Grabenhorst and his colleagues at Oxford University, it was found that the brain’s response to fatty foods is linked to the sensory pleasure experienced by people. The study found that the orbitofrontal cortex, which is responsible for processing sensations and evaluating food’s attractiveness, becomes more active when recognizing fatty foods.
The researchers compared vanilla-flavored milkshakes with varying fat and sugar content. They also used pig tongues to measure the sliding friction of their milkshakes under conditions similar to those in the human mouth. The results showed that the milkshake’s friction decreased with increasing fat content.
In addition, the researchers asked more than 20 test subjects to taste different milkshakes and rate their willingness to pay for more of each shake. Their findings revealed that the differences in composition and pleasantness of the shakes were reflected in the reactions of the orbitofrontal cortex. The preference for a particular milkshake was partly explained by its mouthfeel associated with sliding friction, which affects people’s food choices.
The study also confirmed this part when test subjects were given three curries with different fat content and asked to choose their favorite for lunch without knowing they were being observed by researchers. Those who had a stronger reaction to greasy mouthfeel in the shake experiment piled more fatty meals on their plates.
Grabenhorst said that these findings could help develop low-calorie foods that still provide a similar level of sensory pleasure as high-fat alternatives. The study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience, providing valuable insights into how our brains process and evaluate food choices based on sensory experiences like taste, texture, and smell.