Why We Like Pizza So Much, Explained by Science
Everyone's mouth is watering when someone, in the middle of a meeting between friends or family, releases the typical: Why don't we order a pizza? In fact, it is one of those gastronomic products that most fascinate young and old and that the fast food industry has been able to monetize for years. This Italian dish made based on bread dough, tomato and cheese (main ingredients of its most classic aspect, the mythical Margarita) is perfect to share as it can be divided between chunks and thus tasted with loved ones.
Obviously, this is one of the compelling reasons that make its consumption so prevalent and accepted by all. Its great social value. But beyond that, why do we like pizza so much? Why is it that it becomes irresistible every time it is presented to the table and everyone likes it equally? Throughout these years, science has tried to find an answer to explain the enormous popularity of its flavor and texture that we will review today.
A new flavor?
Since we were little we have been taught that there are only four types of taste in humans: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. But, what would happen if as a result of mixing with each other for so many years or serving food with new chemical supplements to the plate, there could be more? This is how the fifth flavor was born, called umami, which in the kanji language of Japan means "tasty". It was discovered by the scientist Kikunae Ikeda, a professor at the Imperial University of Tokyo, noting that glutamate was the cause of the unusual "flavor" that the seaweed broth acquired when this non-essential amino acid was applied to it. Noticing that it was a taste very different from bitter, sour, sweet or salty, he decided to call it umami.
"The high consumption of processed foods full of sugars and fats generates a sensation of pleasure when ingesting them similar to that produced by drugs"
More recently, a research team led by Juyun Lim from Oregon State University, it seems that he wanted to emulate Ikeda, introducing a new flavor that in this case would correspond to pizzas. In a study published in the scientific journal specialized in flavors 'Chemical Senses', he discovered that those foods rich in starch were very distinguishable for the palate of human beings, which in turn refers to foods that have a large amount of complex sugars or are rich in carbohydrates. Therefore, to the other five flavors he added "starched"in reference to this class of dishes among which is pizza.
A matter of dopamine
Another of the most curious studies that solve why pizzas drive us crazy is the one carried out in 2015 by the University of Michigan and published in the 'US National Library of Medicine'. In it, the scientists decided that the pizza belonged to the list of foods named "addictive-like eating"(" food prone to addiction ") which also included chocolate, french fries or hamburgers.
These are distinguished from the rest in that they are foods with large doses of saturated fat and carbohydrates that the body absorbs very quickly, so the effect of satisfaction is instantaneous. According to the researchers, "the high consumption of processed foods full of sugars and fats can produce rapid changes in the dopamine system, responsible for the sensation of pleasure, similar to that produced by drugs. "
"Addictive substances are rarely found in their natural state, but they have been processed or altered so that their abuse potential increases," they conclude in the study. "For example, when you turn grapes into wine or poppies into opium. A similar process may be occurring within our food chain. "They also influenced another experiment with rats in which rodents with a high feed of processed, like cheesecake, they exhibited high dopamine levels similar to those obtained after taking certain drugs.
It's all in the cheese
Not in vain many people tend to add this dairy derivative to countless dishes to enhance its flavor. In addition to giving our recipes a light or strong (depending on the variety) salty, cheese contains casein, a protein found in all dairy products. When we digest this protein, casomorphins are released which in turn stimulate the body's opioid receptors, those that work to control pain, the feeling of reward and yes, addiction, as a study published in the 'Journal of European Safety Authority' discovered.
It is never a bad thing to indulge your palate and taste a pizza. The problem, obviously, is if we do it frequently, since we will be consuming many sugars and carbohydrates that are harmful to our body, not to mention that we will be more likely to suffer from obesity. IF we like it a lot and we want to make it healthier, we can try to make it completely homemade, since this way we will be the ones who will choose all the ingredients that we put in our mouth, and not a fast food chain. In any case, you have to watch its consumption and bet on a diet richer in fiber and vitamins (present mainly in vegetables), but it is never bad to enjoy one (or several) portions with friends.