For years now, consumption of sugary and fatty foods has been associated with increased waistlines and obesity. Fatty foods have also been linked with a number of other serious ailments, some of which are life-long. Now a new study has said that consuming sugary and fatty foods in excess may re-model the brain, leading to a pattern of overeating. Earlier, scientists have talked about the addictive quality of junk foods like processed cheese as well as sugar and sugary foods and drinks. Sugar, in particular, has been linked with significant negative changes in the brain, which then may lead to harmful eating behaviours, like binge-eating and overeating.
The study was published in the journal Science and it was conducted by researchers at the University of Calgary, Canada. The study was conducted on mice subjects, who were switched over from to standard chow to a more fattening diet to analyse the kind of impact the new fatty diet has, on the brains of the rodents. The study indicated that fatty foods may drive overeating by wearing out the cellular "brakes" in our brains, which signal the body to stop consuming food. The scientists have theorised that if this pattern was true for humans as well, then they may be able to explain why people overeat. The scientists conducted the experiments with the aim of observing brain changes that accompany obesity.
Scientists were particularly interested in an area at the bottom of the brain, which is linked with regulating feeding, known as the lateral hypothalamus. Researchers identified a subset of neurons in the mice brains, which were observed to have undergone the most dramatic changes, when exposed to an obesity-inducing diet. It was seen that as the lean mice became obese by consuming a diet high in sugar and fat, the 'brake' cells called the glutamatergic cells, became less lively and by the end of the 12-weeks trial period, these cells were 80 per cent less active.
The study report said, "The lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) is a key region of the brain that coordinates diverse physiological functions related to survival-including responses to stress, drinking, and energy homeostasis, in order to maintain a physiological equilibrium in a changing environment. The LHA receives a variety of peripheral inputs about current energy needs and integrates these with centrally provided information to coordinate behavior."
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