Is Obesity Tied to a Disease of the Brain? New Study Uncovers Compelling Evidence

Is obesity a disease? The answer may have finally been found by a group of researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. According to their study, recently presented to the annual meeting of the research group Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), obesity “may ultimately be a disease of the brain.”

The cause? A process involving, according to a press release, the “progressive deterioration of various cognitive processes that influence eating” that leads to “dietary excess.”

The research team led by PhD student Tuki Attuquayefio discovered evidence that shows the problem may come down to the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for producing “pleasant memories triggered by seeing or smelling palatable food.”

In other words, a brain region that forgets to tell you you’ve already eaten and instead triggers your hunger even though your stomach is full.

Researchers took as their sample a group of healthy looking “young people, some of whom ate a Western-style diet” (a diet “high in fats and sugars and low in fruit, vegetable and fiber.”) Throughout the course of the study, participants completed hippocampus-related “learning and memory tests that depend on the hippocampus and also rated their liking and wanting of palatable snack foods before and after a filling lunch.”

Their findings? The Western-style diet participants were “slower” than the control group who ate a leaner diet at learning and poorer at remembering that they’d recently eaten. This had the effect of the Western diet group having less of a reduction in their desire for snacks once they had eaten.

"Even though they were full, they still wanted to eat the sweet and fatty junk food," said Attuquayefio. "What was even more interesting was that this effect was strongly related to their performance on the learning and memory task, suggesting that there is a link between the two via the hippocampus."

The length of the study and number of participants was not disclosed in the press release.

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