In today’s modern society, food serves not only as an energy source, but as a coping mechanism. Emotional eating or comfort feeding helps people manage stress and emotions. Unfortunately, this behavior is a toxic cycle that feeds into further emotional and physical health complications.
A group of scientists from the Laboratoire Biologie Fonctionnelle et Adaptative (Université Paris Diderot) tried to gain a greater understanding of the role of energy needs and rewards of eating in food consumption.
The scientists studied a group of neurons found in mice. These neurons, called NPY/AgRP and found in the hypothalamus portion of the brain, play a role in food intake by stimulating appetite in times of hunger.
Scientists discovered that when these neurons were impaired, food intake was driven by a reward system. The mice demonstrated this by consuming excessive amounts of high-carbohydrate and high-fat foods that led to weight gain.
Researchers conclude that being exposed to high-calorie foods could cause brain circuits to become desensitized and possibly driven by a reward system, leading to an energy-rich yet nutrient-poor diet. This can lead to a disturbed feeding pattern that is dependent on the pleasure caused by food.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Food intake, a fragile balance between neural pathways,” ScienceDaily web site August 24, 2015; www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150824085906.htm.
Denis, R.G.P., et al., “Palatability can drive feeding independent of AgRP neurons,” Cell Metabolism 2015, doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2015.07.011.