Obesity ‘determined by brain’
The study, led by Monash University in Australia, found that a high-fat diet causes brain cells to become insulated from the body preventing vital signals, which tell the body to stop eating and burn energy, from reaching the brain efficiently.
Prof. Michael Cowley, who led the research, said there were two clear outcomes from the findings.
“We discovered that a high-fat diet caused brain cells to become insulated from the body, rendering the cells unable to detect signals of fullness to stop eating. Secondly, the insulation also created a further complication in that the body was unable to detect signals to increase energy use and burn off calories,” he said.
The study also showed that support cells in the brain developed overgrowth in a high-fat diet. This prevented the regular brain cells from connecting with other neural mechanisms, which determine appetite and energy expenditure. Prof. Cowley said the study findings provide a critical link in addressing the obesity epidemic.
“These neuronal circuits regulate eating behaviours and energy expenditure and are a naturally occurring process in the brain. The circuits begin to form early in life so that people may have a tendency towards obesity even before they eat their first meal,” he said.