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A High-Fat Diet May Cause You to Overeat with Faulty Brain Signaling

First Posted: Sep 21, 2015 08:32 AM EDT

A high-fat diet could actually lead to overeating. Scientists have found that defective signaling in the brain can cause overeating of high fat foods in mice, leading to obesity.

"We have always been struck by how much animals-and even people-will over-consume tasty high-fat foods, even though they might be technically feeling full," said Aurelio Galli, one of the authors of the new study, in a news release. "A high fat diet causes people to eat more, which ultimately impairs the ability of obese people to successfully control their caloric intake, lose weight and maintain weight loss. We have conducted several studies trying to understand why a high fat diet has this effect."

Worldwide, obesity has more than doubled since 1980. Today, about two billion people are overweight, and 600 million of these people are obese. A number of factors contribute to the obesity epidemic, including economic stresses, changes in the built environment and changing food trends.

Obesity is actually the result of defects in the central nervous system that mean the body can't match its energy intake through food with its energy expenditure. In this new study, the researchers found a novel mechanism behind overeating high fat foods for pleasure. A specific signaling pathway in brain cells that control motivation, movement and attention determines the amount of high fat foods consumed. When the signaling is defective, the person only overeats high fat foods.

"West distilled the neurobiological mechanisms involved specifically in overeating for fat," said Kevin Niswender, one of the authors of the study. "We defined the why, where, and how of 'hedonic' obesity and found that disrupting a specific signaling pathway in the brain can lead to overeating specifically food high in fat."

The findings reveal a bit more about what may cause overeating. This is particular important when developing treatments for those struggling with overeating and obesity.

The findings are published in the journal Heliyon.

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