How does a high fat/calorie diet trick the brain into eating less?

Understanding the role of the brain and the complex mechanisms that lead to overeating, a behavior that can lead to weight gain and obesity, could help develop therapies.

Obesity is a global public health problem as it is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. In the UK, 63% of adults are considered to be above the healthy weight range and about half of these are living with obesity.


One in three children leaving primary school is overweight or obese. Dr. Kirsteen Browning, Penn State University School of Medicine, USA, said:

“Calories appear to be regulated in the short term by astrocytes. We found that short-term (three to five days) exposure to a high-fat/calorie diet had the greatest impact on cells. astrocytes, which activate normal signaling pathways that control the stomach fat/calories, astrocytes appear to be unresponsive, and the brain’s ability to regulate calories appears to be lost. This disrupts signaling to the stomach and delays how it empties. hollow.”

Astrocytes initially respond to high fat/calorie foods. Their activation activates the release of glial transmitters, chemicals (including glutamate and ATP) that stimulate nerve cells and activate normal signaling pathways to stimulate the nerve cells that control stomach activity.

This ensures the stomach contracts correctly to fill and empty as food passes through the digestive system. When astrocytes are inhibited, the cascade is interrupted. The reduction in signaling chemicals leads to a delay in digestion because the stomach is not filled and emptied properly.

The robust investigation used behavioral observation to monitor food intake in rats (N=205, 133 males, 72 females) fed a control or high fat/calorie diet in one, three, five or 14 days. This is combined with pharmacological and expert genetic approaches (both in vivo and in vitro) to target distinct neural circuits.

Allows researchers to specifically inhibit astrocytes in a specific region of the brain stem (the back part of the brain that connects the brain to the spinal cord), so they can assess how individual neurons are working to study the behavior of rats while awake.

The next phase is happening!

Human studies will need to be performed to confirm whether the same mechanism occurs in humans. If this is the case, further testing will be required to assess if mechanism can be safely targeted without disrupting other neural pathways.

The researchers plan to further explore this mechanism. Dr. Kirsteen Browning said,

“We still haven’t figured out whether the loss of astrocyte activity and signaling mechanisms is the cause of overeating or if it happens in response to overeating. We’re eager to find out. understand if it is possible to reactivate the brain’s apparently lost ability to regulate calorie intake.If this is the case, it could lead to interventions to help restore calorie regulation in humans .”

Source: Eurekalert


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