In the News: Overeating Can Throw Off Metabolism


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

A new study in the journal Cell found that overeating triggers a metabolic response in the brain, even when a person hasn't gained weight. The area of the brain affected is called the hypothalamus, which helps regulate appetite, feeding behavior, energy and body-weight balance.

Overeating appears to activate a brain pathway to the hypothalamus that's normally dormant, which then causes excessive caloric consumption. So it becomes a vicious cycle- you overeat, it stimulates the area of your brain that controls appetite, and then you end up eating more. If researchers can find a way to suppress this pathway, it could have an effect on the overweight and obesity epidemic in our country.

It should be mentioned that this study was conducted on mice, but the authors believe that the findings can apply to humans as well. Therefore, further studies would be needed to validate these results. In studying the brains of mice, researchers found that a high-fat or high-sugar diet also increased the activity of this pathway in the brain. Similarly, the pathway was active in the brains of mice predisposed to obesity.

Scientists are learning more and more about obesity- what causes it and how to treat it. Maybe someday they will find the "magic cure", but for now, sticking with a healthy diet and regular exercise is the proven way to take weight off and keep it off long term. Don't you think?

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  • 45
    The thing that I got from that article was eating appropriate portions and healthy food will do the same thing as controling that pathway. Why try to find a way of controling it when you just need a better diet? - 8/24/2009   9:10:57 AM
  • 44
    Brains, what a torent of thought there! LOL. Well what is not funny if my stomach had the correct message sent to my brain that said "Hey I am full, pull away from the table!" that would be great. But I feel as tho with my nerve based illnesses that that signal gets lost in translation.I am continueing to medically check things out, so I may ask to be a ginny pig for the first group to test the instant brain messenger from stomach to full center! Our bodies are so complicated, and the wiring so delicate that several things can mess up the message center, sometimes I can eat an apple and feel like I just chowed a whole cake, or eat a whole med size Pizza Hut super supreme pan and feel hungry, I think the brain and stomachhave a direct link it is just the longer morbid obese people stay inactive and just keep the food comming or go into starving the brain of food in stomach weird and wily mechonisms kick in to yell"Hey Feed Me!" then you eat and the brain says wow, we better store this all for when she goes on her famin kick again we got something to suckle. If I make any sence good, If I do not just blame me for rattleing - 3/4/2009   6:32:34 PM
  • GOAL142
    Isn't this just the same thing we have always known? I remember hearing about this in the 70's when my mom started Weight Watchers (40 yrs later she is STILL overweight BTW) - 3/4/2009   1:43:06 AM
  • 42
    This is interesting but the key to all of us trying to get better health is to eat less exercise more and get off of so many medications. To develope a drug for this is just another pill to have to swallow. Where the side effect of the drug will outweigh the benefits. I can just see it now in small print This medication may cause severe weight gain, liver problems, headache, nausea, vomitting, constipation, edema (LOL) Therefore we all would probably be better off sticking with our own little Sparks People Family and learning how to do it the correct way without the pills. - 1/22/2009   3:55:36 PM
  • 41
    This would explain why when I over eat I just want to eat more. Sometimes I feel like i will never be full or stop eating. - 1/11/2009   1:25:47 PM
  • 40
    and I thought it was my stomach stretching - interesting to find out it may have a brain connection... - 1/10/2009   10:57:27 PM
  • 39
    This reminds me of my own behavior... when I overeat a little, I feel more of a desire to do it again. - 1/10/2009   12:58:28 PM
  • 38
    That is so true! I have personally noticed that the more I eat (junk especially) and the more I want to keep going... - 11/6/2008   7:37:19 PM
  • 37
    When I feel a binge coming on, usually after a glass or two of wine . ..(that's another subject . . .) I will eat anything salty or fatty. (cheese and crackers, etc.) And lots of it. Which is bad enough, but the next day I am hungry all day--kind of proving that the pathway in my brain has been activated--binging, you would think, would satisfy hunger, but it seems to have the exact oppoisite effect on me anyway . . . .I look forward to the time when I teach myself to have a small snack and call it quits. - 10/18/2008   8:09:18 AM
  • 36
    Great article. More mortivation to skip the initial overeat. - 10/13/2008   9:07:48 AM
  • 35
    Very interesting. Most previous research implies that stimulants to overeating come from erratic blood sugar levels or that the hypothalmic effect is the result rather than the cause of some metabolic and/or thyroid abnormalities. It would be relevant to know if the mice used in the study were tested to be previously healthy (i.e. no prior metabolic or thyroid irregularities and not overweight, and then force fed a high sugar/high fat diet) or if they selected mice that were already overweight and potentially so due to blood sugar or metabolic irregularities. - 10/11/2008   11:03:56 AM
  • 34
    Love it thanks - 10/10/2008   8:58:47 PM
  • 33
    This makes perfect sense. I will put this information to good use. - 10/10/2008   3:56:22 PM
  • 32
    I so agree with this article. - 10/10/2008   3:04:39 PM
  • 31
    This article makes so much sense..... I notice the more I overeat the more I want and now I will certainly try to keep that under control. - 10/9/2008   7:49:06 PM
    One more great reason not to overeat! - 10/9/2008   5:47:35 PM
  • 29
    This is interesting but I am not sure that developing a drug to suppress a pathway is the answer.

    - 10/9/2008   4:50:13 PM
  • 28
    Isn't that interesting?! Will wait to see what other things they will find out in the future. - 10/9/2008   3:48:37 PM
    Knowing how much effort I put into losing 40 lbs i don't even want to hear when this "magic cure" will be found. the short way to anything is not a proud way! you have to fight for everything: from your love, to your weight and your job! - 10/9/2008   1:19:52 PM
  • 26
    hummm this was interesting... Beck Diet solutions addressed some of this. So in other words the eat the more you want. If this is the case. It is right on. Still I want to learn and get off this cycle. I don't eat until I am overlyfull but I do consume too many calories. Still working on this..... - 10/9/2008   12:39:32 PM
  • 25
    Interesting. I'm wondering if the path that lights up with overeating releases one of the feel good chemicals...dopamine or endorphins...and if some people are more predisposed to this sort of thing than others. If that's the case, then it's possible that this will lead to a medication that might help the underlying problem...depression in a lot of cases. I don't buy into the obesity epidemic scare. I think people were meant to come in all shapes and sizes. I believe we can all be healthy and happy and some of us will be overweight according to the BMI, but I think anything that can lead to people being happier and leading a more fulfilling life is a good thing. - 10/9/2008   12:27:01 PM
    This makes perfect sense. We've known for awhile that comfort foods trigger responses in the brain, and comfort foods are what we normally over eat on. - 10/9/2008   11:39:51 AM
  • 23
    Very interesting. I hope research sheds more light as time goes on.
    Thanks for sharing. - 10/9/2008   10:12:55 AM
  • 22
    The best way to control our weight is throught balanced meals, portion control, and exercise. I think too often, the American people expect a quick fix forgetting that we got overweigh slowly. We are so used to taking a pill to fix things, we expect to fix all our problems that way--obesity, mental illness, etc. - 10/9/2008   10:02:49 AM
  • 21
    Exersize! When you are working out you arn't eating! - 10/9/2008   9:44:58 AM
    I agree with what someone said earlier. If we 'solve' this problem by a chemical method, what have we done to help people with emotional eating or self control? Interesting finding but I don't see a gain in having a pill to cure it. - 10/9/2008   9:23:40 AM
  • 19
    Interesting, thanks for sharing. - 10/9/2008   8:17:47 AM
  • 18
    Very interesting. There is so much we don't yet know about the brain and how it functions.. and I am fascinated by it! I also was shocked that I would be ravenous the next day if I over-ate the night before. You would think the opposite would be true.. but it isn't!!

    I think in America, many of us have a very unhealthy relationship with food in general.. and I know that I am one of those people! But, I'm really working on it. It's interesting to "diet" and not think of food as the "enemy"...but rather as a tool to fuel and strengthen your body.

    I think a healthier relationship with food in general leads to a healthier YOU!
    And all those enormous restaurant portions really have to go! What a skewed visual of what a "portion" is!!! So we OVER eat, and train ourselves to over-eat! This actually doesn't shock me.

    Thanks for another wonderfully informative article! - 10/9/2008   7:41:00 AM
  • 17
    "If researchers can find a way to suppress this pathway, it could have an affect on the overweight and obesity epidemic in our country."
    Great.... so take away the responsibility and it solves everything? I understand there are exceptions, but shouldn't we be willing to accept that we choose to overeat and learn to control ourselves? - 10/9/2008   7:09:57 AM
  • 16
    Okay then - as new mommies we pride ourselves (and doctors ENCOURAGE) in how much our babies drink out of bottles. I've been led to understand that the stomach is the size of your fist - which means that is how much we should eat max at 1 sitting (hm, mine is MAYBE 1-1/4 cups) I'm also going to guess that would be liquified. But a baby's fist is only maybe 3 ounces and we stuff them with those 8 ounce bottles, what? 6-8 times a day?
    And so the idea that the stomach is taught to stretch is not that far ... well, stretched! We are teaching our babies to overeat! THEN they tell you to 'burp' the baby and feed it more. Hm, wouldn't that burp indicate fullness? And if you are 'demand feeding' (as I did with DS#2) yeah, they eat every 2 hours and 'only' about 3 or 4 ounces tops. But this crud about feeding them on YOUR schedule, every 4-6 hours - NOT letting their body or their metabolism maximize. - 10/9/2008   6:36:35 AM
  • 15
    I wonder in the converse is true as well. Those who eat very little if they train their brain so they do not have the urge to eat. If this is part of what causes Anorexia or trigger bulemia. My mom had both and died weighing 72 pounds when I was 26 years old ( almost 26 years ago ) she was 55 and not diagnosed as having an eating disorder until after death when there was no 'organic' cause of death but died of malnutrition and a vitamin K deficency. She was born in Oklahoma just before the great depression and 'dust bowl' and almost starved to death as a child becuase there was little food for her and her family. She had rickets as evidence of this as a child. Just some thoughts.
    - 10/9/2008   6:30:08 AM
  • 14
    It is so true, I used to overeat every day. I ate a lot or almost nothing during the day. After I changes my habit I know when I am hungry or just feel like eating. I also found that when I just feel like eating it is usually because something is missing in my nutrition (vitamins, water or trace elements). - 10/9/2008   6:29:28 AM
  • 13
    What a great article! It's amazing how many American's overeat. If we got every American on the bandwagon of eating 5-6 small meals each day and exercising at least 30 minutes 3 times a week we could combat this problem. This would also help speed up the metabolism. Did you hit the gym today? - 10/9/2008   4:08:09 AM
  • 12
    Whoa, that was surely interesting! Please keep us updated :D

    Did you drink all your water today?! :P - 10/9/2008   2:36:09 AM
  • 11
    Definitely agree with the article. I work at a desk and I make it a habit to intentionally pack light lunches so that I don't feel sleepy and lazy. So far it has worked wonderfully for me. - 10/9/2008   1:11:13 AM
  • 10
    I was always taught that when you overeat, it "stretches" your stomach, making it take more food to "fill" you. I think this makes more sense. - 10/9/2008   12:09:00 AM
  • 9
    This may be why why I have found it best to leave some kinds of food entirely alone, and stay away from cheat meals! I read an abstract of the original study, and it looked like the authors did a good job with their experimental design (we do need to find out under what conditions the mouse-findings apply to humans, of course). - 10/8/2008   10:59:26 PM
  • 8
    This is so true! When I don't eat... I'm not hungry. When I eat... an hour later I want more to eat! - 10/8/2008   8:40:16 PM
  • 7
    I definitely agree with the article. I notice when I have eaten healthy for awhile, the thought of getting any kind of fast food is disgusting to me. However, it goes the other way around; when I've been indulging in fast food, that's all I want or can think about! - 10/8/2008   8:37:36 PM
  • 6
    Wow this is great and very true... - 10/8/2008   8:27:43 PM
    That certainly would explain why it's harder to get back to healthy eating after even one day of overeating, and why I don't want to overeat the longer I stick to the good eating. - 10/8/2008   7:35:36 PM
  • 4
  • 3
    Wow, this is really interesting. I've found lately that the better I am with my eating, the less I want to overeat and/or eat bad food. Maybe I'm closing my pathway! - 10/8/2008   6:57:53 PM
    I agree with this article wholeheartedly, Baby_Gurl. I feel the same way if I eats lots of food - absolutely no energy - just want to sleep. I have noticed since I changed my eating style to a more healthy eating style, I tend not to be so sleepy during the daytime - glad of that! - 10/8/2008   6:24:24 PM
  • 1
    Some times I find that if I eat lots of food that I have almost no energy. Often times I am lethargic. So I agree with the article. - 10/8/2008   6:16:54 PM

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