According to a finding by researchers at the Memorial University of Newfoundland Canadacertain foods are activated in the brain “vicious circle” that leads people to eat more than they need.
This research concluded that there is a relationship between inflammation of the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates energy balance and hunger, and the cconsumption of high-fat diets. “Diets with a lot of fat can lead to a vicious cycle that is difficult to stop,” published in the PNAS journal.
However, not all fats cause this phenomenon.. Healthy fats, such as those included in avocado, nuts or olive oil are recommended in a healthy eating plan in the recommended portions. The problem is in the excessive intake of ultra-processed foods with high levels of industrial fats.
“These foods produce an inflammation of the hypothalamus that increases appetite to levels that make us eat more than we need and that we gain weight”, detail the authors of the work, although they clarify that “inflammation of this region of the brain is also associated with diseases such as anorexia and others that cause weight loss”.
The team headed by Michiru Hirasawa realized that high-fat diets make prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) activates the MHC hormone in the hypothalamus, which makes people feel hungry.
For this reason, this phenomenon could explain weight gain and, in other cases, excessive weight loss. In a high concentration it produces intense inflammation and PGE2 suppresses appetite, but if the concentration is lower, it increases it.
How to detect the influence of fat consumption on appetite
The researchers used animal models to find out how the relationship between inflammation and disordered appetite is regulated. For it tested by genetically modifying the mice that participated in the studythey eliminated the receptors for this prostaglandin in MHC neurons, and the animals remained protected against obesity or fatty liver caused by inflammation of the hypothalamus linked to a high-fat diet.
For Hirasawa it is not easy to predict “the result of inflammation, because low or high intensity is relative, it can be acute or chronic and involve many different organs, cells and molecules”.
However, Hirasawa clarified that “reducing inflammation can alleviate both symptoms.” “For example, the Mediterranean diet is anti-inflammatory and is known to help reduce weight in people who are overweight or obese. But it is also essential to be selective about how and when anti-inflammatory treatments are used, as inflammation is also necessary for our daily functioning, for example healing wounds or fighting infections.”
Finally, Hirasawa believes that these advances “may one day lead to treatments for obesity.” For her, “knowledge of the mechanism that starts with the ingestion of fats and causes inflammation that increases appetite would make it possible to develop treatments that use this target.”
Subjecting people to the genetic modification that the mice were subjected to in the study published in PNAS is not feasible because PGE2 has many other functions besides inflaming the hypothalamus and causing hunger. And while the expert acknowledged that “it is to be expected that treatments that block this mechanism will have an anti-obesity effect,” she concluded that “it is critical to identify possible side effects and test their safety before using them.”