Special neurons have been found in the brain that stimulate the consumption of fatty or sweet foods, even when the body is full and does not need food. This will help create drugs for the prevention and treatment of obesity.
The study was conducted by American scientists from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York State. This is a private scientific institution dealing with issues of medicine and biology. At various times, nine Nobel laureates have worked here. The new study is published in the influential journal Nature Neuroscience.
Fear and gluttony are close to each other
These neurons are located in a special brain structure called the amygdala or amygdala. Most of all, it is known for the fact that a sense of fear is formed here. People with a destroyed amygdala are fearless. This happens with a rare hereditary Urbach-Wite disease, only about 300 such patients are registered. The amygdala is also involved in the formation of other emotions, and also plays a significant role in memory and decision making.
Scientists have studied the so-called “hedonic diet”. This is overeating when the body is not hungry and does not need additional calories and nutrients. But even in such a situation, the brain can evaluate foods rich in carbohydrates and fats as very tasty, and give the command to consume them in excess. The modern food industry takes advantage of this by producing such foods in abundance. And now, American researchers have found that neurons located in the amygdala and releasing neurotensin are in charge of hedonic behavior.
Mice love to eat too
The study of such mechanisms is very difficult, and experiments for this on a person are impossible. Therefore, they were carried out on mice. But the mechanisms of hedonistic nutrition in animals and humans are similar.
Scientists have shown that these neurons fire in response to fatty and sugary foods and trigger hedonic overeating – the mice began to eat only for pleasure, and not to provide the nutrients necessary for survival. In the experiment, it was possible to turn off these neurons, making them inactive. They stopped producing neurotensin, and the mice were no longer attracted to fatty and sugary foods. “They just ate with pleasure and remained healthy,” says of the result. Professor Bo Liwho led the study. “They not only stopped gaining weight, but in general became much healthier.”
Double effect of neurotensin
Turning off these neurons not only reduced overeating and protected against obesity, but also increased the animals’ physical activity, which further led to weight loss and improved health and metabolism. That is, neurotensin plays a dual role, regulating not only nutrition, but also physical activity.
Such an exact target as a neurohormone and the cells that produce it is attractive to pharmacologists. This enables targeted drug development with a double effect. Firstly, it can normalize eating behavior, preventing overeating. This will help solve the problem of re-gaining weight after losing it. This happens to almost all those who lose weight, as over time they again begin to eat more than the body needs. Secondly, the medication will help stimulate the person’s more active behavior. This is very good not only for weight loss, but also for health in general.
The fallacy of evolution
I wonder why we consider harmful foods to be delicious, especially sweet ones?
This is due to evolution, because many positive human emotions are associated with a sweet taste. It signals that the fruits on the tree are ripe and the time has come to consume them. Before that, they were so sour or tart that it was unpleasant to eat them. And after spoilage, they will become bitter, and again inedible.
Today it is hard to believe, but when such a mechanism was formed, it did not promise anything harmful to a person. Indeed, in ancient times, the natural sweetness of fruits and other products was moderate. Everything changed when a person learned to isolate sugar in its pure form, and then began to add it without measure to foods and drinks. The latter happened only in the 20th century, when sugar production became cheap. So we live in a sweet world for a very short time. But this time was enough for humanity to fall in love with too sweet foods. As a result, it has become a very big medical problem. And its decision is extremely important.”