High-fat diet could harm the brain’s ability to regulate food intake

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In a study from Penn State College of Medicine, scientists found regularly eating a high-fat/calorie diet could reduce the brain’s ability to regulate calorie intake.

They found that after short periods of being fed a high-fat/high-calorie diet, the brain adapts to react to what is being ingested and reduces the amount of food eaten to balance calorie intake.

The researchers suggest that calorie intake is regulated in the short term by cells called astrocytes (large star-shaped cells in the brain that regulate many different functions of neurons in the brain) that control the signaling pathway between the brain and the gut.

Continuously eating a high-fat/calorie diet seems to disrupt this signaling pathway.

Obesity is a global public health concern because it is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.

In the study, the team found that a brief exposure (three to five days) of high-fat/calorie diet has the greatest effect on astrocytes, triggering the normal signaling pathway to control the stomach.

Over time, astrocytes seem to desensitize to high-fat food.

Around 10–14 days of eating a high-fat/calorie diet, astrocytes seem to fail to react, and the brain’s ability to regulate calorie intake seems to be lost. This disrupts the signaling to the stomach and delays how it empties.

The team monitored food intake in rats that were fed a control or high-fat/calorie diet for one, three, five or 14 days.

They also examined how individual neurons behaved as they studied the rats’ behavior while they were awake.

The team says human studies must be carried out to confirm whether the same mechanism occurs in humans.

If this is the case, further testing will be required to assess whether the mechanism could be safely targeted without disrupting other neural pathways.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and blueberry supplements may prevent cognitive decline.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and Coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was conducted by Dr. Kirsteen Browning et al and published in The Journal of Physiology.

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