Switching off Hunger in the Brain

New research has shown that being able to control hunger cravings may not just be due to strong willpower, but to science also.

For example, Medical News Today have recently reported on a study that identified the ‘appetite-controlling’ area of the brain – a class of glial brain cells in our hypothalamus. These cells can ‘tell us’ to stop eating when they are activated by the right nutrients. In addition to this, the hormone asprosin actually stimulates appetite and ‘turns off’ areas like the glial brain cells in order to avoid suppression of appetite.

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia – led by J. Nicholas Betley (assistant professor in the university’s Department of Biology) found that Agouti-Related Protein-Expressing Neurons (AgRP) get activated during hunger, therefore to be able to control hunger, these neurons would need to be stopped from firing signals. At the moment, the only way of stopping these signals is consuming nutrients in our food.

The study was conducted on mice – one group of mice were given their normal chow gel and the other group of mice were given a low calorie gel substitute. From this, it was seen that “When seeing the standard chow, the mice associated its smell and appearance with satiety, so their AgRP neurons decreased in activity. But when the rodents were given the calorie-free gel, seeing and smelling the food did not affect the neurons: their activity levels stayed just as high. After eating the calorie-free gel, AgRP neuronal activity decreased, but only for a little while. The more repeatedly the mice were given the gel, the smaller was the decrease in the activity of the neurons, indicating that the rodents had come to associate the gel with a low amount of calories.”

This experiment confirmed to the researchers that nutrients are the primary regulators in stopping the firing of AgRP neurons, and from this the researchers hope to discover manual ways of controlling AgRP neuron activity.

As said by Betley himself…

“It would be interesting to see whether consuming smaller meals more frequently might lead to less activity in the neurons and thus less food intake overall […] Or maybe we can develop better combinations of foods or better ways of eating so we can avoid that 9 p.m. binge on Oreo cookies when you’ve had a really great diet all day.”

Thank you for reading this weeks blog, if you found it interesting feel free to comment down below your thoughts about this!



Sources used:


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