Overeating May Change the Brain


SEATTLE, Wash. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — The Centers for Disease Control estimates a third of American adults are obese, and another third are considered overweight. Now, a new study from the University of Washington may shed some light on why it’s so hard to lose weight.

Ellen Schur, MD, MS, Associate Professor of Medicine and Clinical Research Director at UW Medicine Diabetes Institute said, “The number of people losing weight or stating that they have tried to lose weight over the past year is 50 percent.”

(Read Full Interview)

Dr. Schur helps patients lose weight. She says weight loss itself causes hormone changes that make food more appealing, so it’s harder to keep weight off. In another UW lab, researchers from UW Medicine Center for the Neurobiology of Addiction, Pain and Emotion, Mark Rossi and Marcus Basiri’s study shows that overeating changes brain cells that suppress food intake.

Rossi said, “We don’t know the exact mechanisms that are contributing to it, but we see that there are profound changes across lots of different cell types.”

Basiri stated, “So these glutamate neurons, which normally function to suppress feeding, were kind of toning down their firing patterns.”

As the mice got fatter, neurons got worse at putting the brakes on eating. The team hopes this leads to new ways to treat obesity in people one day.

Now, the research team is working on isolating an even smaller set of cells that are affected by overeating. They haven’t yet discovered whether the neurons can change back to how they worked before obesity.

Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4645

BACKGROUND: Obesity is a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It is a medical problem that increases the risk of other diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers. There are many reasons why some people have difficulty avoiding obesity. Usually, obesity results from a combination of inherited factors, combined with the environment and personal diet and exercise choices. Most Americans’ diets are too high in calories, often from fast food and high-calorie beverages. People with obesity might eat more calories before feeling full, feel hungry sooner, or eat more due to stress or anxiety.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obesity/symptoms-causes/syc-20375742)

OVEREATING: Binge eating can happen on a single occasion, or it can become a regular way of eating, leading to problems. Although binge eating in itself does not necessarily constitute a food addiction or eating disorder, binge eating is a symptom of Binge Eating Disorder and the eating disorder Bulimia Nervosa. There are a wide variety of reasons people overeat, including emotional eating, stress eating, overeating from supersize meal portions, sugar addiction, compulsive snacking, comfort and boredom eating, social eating, and relying on fast food. Research suggests that fast food is designed to stimulate overeating, typically by using a combination of sugar, salt and fat, all shown to be addictive.

(Source: https://www.verywellmind.com/ten-types-of-overeating-22170)

NEW RESERACH: In the Stuber lab study, with members Mark Rossi and Marcus Basiri, an article published in SceinceNews.org said, “The researchers don’t know whether these cells would regain their normal behavior if the mice stopped eating high-fat food and shed weight. It would be technically hard to keep monitoring the same cells for the weeks or months it would take for the mice to normalize their body weight, Stuber says. While the results offer a clear example of cells that control feeding behavior in mice, it’s hard to say whether similar appetite-suppressing nerve cells are at work in people. Brain-imaging experiments have shown that the same brain region, the hypothalamus, is involved when people shift between being hungry and full. Stuber points out that while these cells in mice seem particularly responsive to a high-fat diet, obesity probably affects a much wider population of cells. “This is probably happening across the brain,” he says. Understanding those complex interactions might ultimately point to better strategies for managing human appetites.”

(Source: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/high-fat-diet-brain-appetite-mice)


Bobbi Nodell, PR



If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Ellen Schur, MD, MS, Associate Professor of Medicine and Clinical Research Director

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