If your mother had told you that overeating causes brain damage, would you have continued to do it? It’s likely that many of us would have stopped mindlessly shoving food in our mouths without another thought. So when a new study has shown that this is exactly what’s happening, many people working to shed pounds were likely pretty shocked.
According to one obesity expert, Louis Aronne, MD and Director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program with New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, researchers have finally found some answers to the question of obesity, and why some people just can’t seem to shed pounds, even after putting serious effort forth to do so. Despite diet and exercise and serious efforts, many will not be able to maintain weight loss.
It turns out that years of overeating for years and years actually causes damage to the brain. Or, to be precise, it causes damage to the signal pathways in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which regulates metabolism.
Aronne says that there is remarkably convincing evidence and that eating foods that are fattening actually causes inflammatory cells to head straight to the hypothalamus, which overloads neurons and causes brain damage.
A study in the British Journal of Nutrition, which was published in February of 2013, has highlighted this line of thinking when it comes to the hypothalamic damage and developing new ways to lose weight.
For the study, a research team with the University of Liverpool examined data that included studies of different diets for weight loss. What they discovered that diets high in simple carbohydrates and saturated fats set a chain of reactions known as metabolic dysfunction that involves ghrelin and leptin, both of which are hormones that regulate the appetite. They also discovered that high fat, high carbohydrate diets caused changes in the brain.
With time, eating too many simple sugar and fat calories actually causes damage to the nerves that send signals through the hypothalamus, which affects the function of ghrelin and leptin, and the ability of our bodies to regulate metabolism and weight. The damage prevents signals about how much fat is stored in the body.
The excellent news is that there is hope because brain damage can be undone by changing to a healthy diet and maintaining it for a long time. Long term weight loss takes time, so weight loss will be a process. However, maintaining a healthy diet for life will help to heal the hypothalamus and the body will begin to regulate proper metabolism and fat stores again, and that will help you to keep the weight off for good.