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article imageDoes your brain make you fat?

By Tim Sandle     Jun 1, 2017 in Health
Cambridge - Is your brain working against you when you try to diet? In many cases the answer could be 'yes', for sometimes the brain can interfere with the effort to lose weight. New research shows how.
The new insight into the role of the brain and diet comes from studies using mice. The mouse model research indicates that certain brain cells can be activated in response to dieting and this activation serves to prevent the body from burning calories at the level expected. The result of this is that weight is not all that well lost through dieting alone. This arises because the body (controlled by the brain) functions like a type of thermostat. Here the brain couples the amount of calories that are burnt to the amount of calories we eat.
The finding comes from research conducted by Dr. Clémence Blouet, who works at the Metabolic Research Laboratories at University of Cambridge, U.K. In a research note, Dr. Clémence Blouet explains: "When we eat less, our body compensates and burns fewer calories, which makes losing weight harder. We know that the brain must regulate this caloric thermostat, but how it adjusts calorie burning to the amount of food we've eaten has been something of a mystery."
The mystery has been overcome. By investigating certain neurons in the hypothalamus region of the brain, Dr. Clémence Blouet and her researchers found that 'agouti-related neuropeptide' neurons play an important part of how appetite is processed in the brain. The scientists found when these are active the neurons cause the brain to signal hunger; and when the neurons are not active, the brain does not signal hunger. Therefore these neurons are a significant part of the thermostatic process that regulates weight.
Here the mouse study showed when the neurons fired the mice became hungry and sought food. When no food was available, the neuron activity altered and caused the mice to limit energy expenditure and this resulted in them burning fewer calories. This is the opposite of what most dieters want.
The significant of the research, Laboratory Reports summarizes, is that limiting the intake of food causes caloric burn to slow down, thus dieting might not be the best way to lose weight. Instead exercise may well be a more optimal means for achieving weight loss.
The research is published in the journal eLife, under the title "mTORC1 in AGRP neurons integrates exteroceptive and interoceptive food-related cues in the modulation of adaptive energy expenditure in mice."
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