Food Science

Your Stomach Literally Has a Mind of Its Own

Photo: iStockphoto

It’s true! The Wall Street Journal pens a long, lovely tale all about the so-called “gut brain,” which is “essentially an autonomous and self governing second brain that we all carry in our belly.” There are as many nerve cells in our gut brains as there are in cats’ regular brains! Our gut brains help tell us how hungry and/or full we are. Also: “They help to control muscular contractions in the gut as well as the secretions of glands and cells.” So, yeah. Gut brains. And guess what! Huge food companies like Nestlé are trying to figure out the best way to exploit them.

It’s a little scary-sounding, actually. Just take a look at this:

Nestle, one of the world’s largest food companies, hopes to develop new types of foods that, essentially, seek to trick the gut brain. The foods could make people feel full earlier, or stay full longer, in order to curb the desire to eat more. For example, cooking french fries in oil that gets digested more slowly than regular oil could confer a longer-lasting sense of satiety, researchers speculate.

The story says that these gut-brain-tricking foods could be on store shelves in as little as five years. And while the story doesn’t speculate as to what kinds of foods these will be (beyond the French fry example), it’s worth noting that Nestlé — which owns brands like Perrier, Poland Spring, Hot Pockets, Juicy Juice, and Häagen-Dazs — makes just about every kind of packaged, processed food out there.

Sure, they say they’re doing all this gut-brain research to create diet-friendly foods. But we wonder: If food scientists can figure out ways to make the process of eating bypass our regular brains, how long before a company can manufacture a snack food that we are physically unable to resist? Suddenly “betcha can’t eat just one” sounds a lot more sinister.

Hungry? Your Stomach Really Does Have a Mind of Its Own [WSJ]

Your Stomach Literally Has a Mind of Its Own