Image of a child looking at food on a bench.

Your brain is hard-wired to remember where junk food is

Credit: ©Михаил Руденко

By Krishitha Gopalakrishnan

Have you noticed how you always seem to remember where you hid that chocolate bar but that apple you thought you’d packed for school suddenly seems to have disappeared? Don’t worry, it’s in our genes! It turns out that humans are better at recalling where junk food is.

Researchers from Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands instructed around 250 participants to explore a room containing different foods. As they walked around, people could eat what they liked, and afterwards, they were asked to map where the samples were. People were 27% more accurate at mapping foods with high calories. And in a similar experiment where people could only smell the food and not see or taste it, they were 28% more accurate at mapping the high calorie foods.

Wait, hold up…what exactly is a calorie? A calorie is a unit used to measure how much energy is released by food as it digests in our body. In Australia, we tend to use kilojoules instead. Calories and kilojoules are different ways of measuring the same thing. Basically, consuming food with more calories (or kilojoules) will give us more energy to go through our day.

Scientists believe that this ability to remember high energy food could have helped our ancestors survive when food was scarce. By finding food with more calories, they wouldn’t need to eat as often.

But can this trait be a bad thing for us now? Unlike our ancestors, food is now much easier for us to find. It might only be a couple of steps to the kitchen. Our brains reaching out for more high-calorie foods than we need may be contributing to the high rates of obesity we have today.

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2 responses

  1. Yeeto Dorito Avatar
    Yeeto Dorito

    i read the kitchen science books and junk food contains WAY too many calories.

    1. David Avatar

      Yup! it’s super easy to eat a whole day’s worth of energy in junk food snacks.

      There’s like six apples worth in one mars bar!

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