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Junk food’s evil ways: High-fat diet hijacks the brain’s ability to regulate appetite


HERSHEY, Pa. — Eating fatty foods like burgers and fried chicken can obviously lead to obesity, but not in the way you may think. Researchers say a high-fat diet and junk food rewires the brain, reduces our ability to regulate appetite and regulate calorie consumption.

The discovery could open the door to an anti-obesity pill that targets neurons in the brain. Experiments in rats show that cells called astrocytes control a chemical pathway to the gut. However, the study suggests that continuously gorging on fatty and sugary products disrupts that link.


Calorie intake seems to be regulated in the short-term by astrocytes. We found that a brief exposure (three to five days) of high fat/calorie diet has the greatest effect on astrocytes, triggering the normal signaling pathway to control the stomach. Over time, astrocytes seem to desensitize to the high fat food. Around 10-14 days of eating high fat/calorie diet, astrocytes seem to fail to react and the brain’s ability to regulate calorie intake seems to be lost. This disrupts the signaling to the stomach and delays how it empties,” says lead author Dr. Kirsteen Browning from Penn State College of Medicine, in a media release.

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