Image via: morphonix.com
Researchers have discovered that overeating may make the brain go haywire, often leading to other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and many other issues.
“Eating too much food activates a typically dormant immune system pathway in the brain. This process sends out immune cells to attack and destroy invaders that are not there,” stated Dongsheng Cai of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The scientists studied mice while trying to explain studies showing that obesity causes chronic inflammation throughout the body.
The researchers focused in on a compound known as IKKbeta/NK-kappaB. They found the compound in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain linked with metabolism in mice and humans.
They stated in their findings that "The hypothalamus is the 'headquarters' for regulating energy.”
When the mice were fed a high-fat diet, they became very active and when the body became active, it ignored signals from Leptin, which is a hormone that usually helps regulate appetite, and insulin, which helps convert food into energy.
Stimulating IKKbeta/NK-kappaB made the mice eat more, while suppressing it made them eat less.
Cai believes his team may have discovered a ‘master switch’ for the diseases caused by overeating.
"Hypothalamic IKKb/NF-kB could underlie the entire family of modern diseases induced by overnutrition and obesity," his team said.
When the gene was “knocked out” using genetic engineering, it kept the mice eating normally, thereby preventing obesity. While this cannot be done in people, Cai believes a drug, or even gene therapy, may be the solution to the problem.