According to a study, eating junk food and following a high-fat diet rewires your brain. This can reduce your ability to "regulate appetite and regulate calorie consumption."
The researchers hope that their findings can one day be used to develop an anti-obesity pill that targets neurons in the brain. Details of the study were published in The Journal of Physiology.
According to data from animal studies, cells called astrocytes control a chemical pathway to the gut. But the new study shows that continuously consuming fatty and sugary foods disrupts this crucial link.
Dr. Kirsteen Browning, the study's lead author from Penn State College of Medicine, explained that calorie intake seems to be regulated in the short term by astrocytes.
Following a high-fat or high-calorie diet for at least three to five days has the greatest effect on astrocytes and triggers the normal signaling pathway to control the stomach. Eventually, astrocytes seem to desensitize to high-fat food.
Browning added that after following a high-fat or high-calorie diet for 10 to 14 days, astrocytes fail to react and the brain's ability to regulate calorie intake is lost. This then disrupts the signaling to the stomach and delays how it empties. (Related: Consuming too much fast food can cause irreversible brain damage, warn health experts.)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese. This increases their risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Experts believe that learning more about the brain’s role and the complex mechanisms that lead to gluttony can be used to develop therapies for treating weight gain.
Astrocytes initially react when you eat junk food, which then releases gliotransmitters.
Gliotransmitters are chemicals that stimulate neurons that ensure the stomach "contracts correctly to fill and empty in response to food passing through the digestive system."
When something inhibits astrocytes, it disrupts the cascade. The decrease in signaling chemicals results in a delay in digestion because the stomach doesn't fill and empty appropriately.
For the study, researchers used behavioral observation to monitor food intake in more than 200 lab rodents fed either a normal or high-fat diet for one, three, five or 14 days.
The behavioral observation was combined with pharmacological and specialist genetic techniques to target distinct neural circuits. This allowed the scientists to specifically inhibit astrocytes in a particular region of the brainstem – the posterior part that is connected to the spinal cord.
The scientists then studied how individual neurons behaved when the animal subjects were awake. They reported that if the same mechanism occurs in humans, medication could be used to safely target the mechanism if the treatment doesn't affect other neural pathways.
According to Browning, more research is needed to confirm "whether the loss of astrocyte activity and the signaling mechanism is the cause of overeating or that it occurs in response to the overeating."
She added that the research team wants to find out whether it is possible to reactivate the brain's apparent lost ability to regulate calorie intake. If this is the case, the research could be used to develop interventions that can help restore calorie regulation in humans.
If you eat a lot of junk food and are worried about your health, make lifestyle changes to lower your risk of developing many health issues like obesity, diabetes and heart problems.
Tips for healthy eating
Tips for losing weight
Avoid junk food and follow a balanced diet to maintain your overall health.
Visit JunkFood.news to learn more about the adverse effects of having poor eating habits.
Watch the video below about 11 ways to improve your eating habits.
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