Is Obesity a Brain Disease?

You may have never imagined that what we eat can literally change our brains! New research published this week raises questions about whether obesity is a truly metabolic vs. a neurologic phenomenon, or a little bit of both.

Animal research done at Vanderbilt University headed by Dr. Aurelio Galli reveals a mechanism for how a high-fat diet can disrupt brain signals that regulate appetite. The findings reveal a system designed to control the eating of highly rewarding high-fat and high-sugar foods.

Strangely enough, this system can be hijacked by the very foods that it is designed to keep under control. Dr. Galli’s team found a group of specific proteins are responsible for the hijacking, and how they cause brain changes that lead to a vicious cycle of eating increasing amounts of high-fat and high-sugar foods that likely further cement these changes.

This can help explain why the more often we eat pizza, hot dogs, and ice cream sundaes, the more we tend to crave them.

Other published work is now linking obesity to brain disease:

The presence of obesity increases the likelihood of to developing a common brain tumor (meningioma) by 50%
There is a statistically significant risk for earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged obese people. This may be due to cognitive impairment resulting from chronic insulin resistance – which also leads to the development of type II Diabetes.
It’s not yet clear however whether a healthy weight can delay the onset of dementia and/or other neurological problems in patients at risk. But based on all these new findings, certainly this would be worth looking into.

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Relating Obesity to Brain Health

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