Your weight and food consumption may just be all in your head. That is according to some new animal research from Johns Hopkins scientists.
For many years it has been believed that the brain forms new nerve cells well into adulthood. The process of this is called neurogenesis. However, it was only thought it was in 2 areas of the brain. But now it is suggested that a third area, the hypothalamus, also forms new cells, or neurons. The hypothalamus is responsible for sleep, body temperature regulation, as well as hunger and thirst.
When the scientists figured out the source of the hypothalamic neurogenesis (don’t ask me to explain how they did it), they then wanted to know what its function was.
They knew from previous research that if mice are RAISED on a high fat diet there is a significantly greater risk of them being obese as adult mice. So the question was raised. Does hypothalamic neurogenesis play a role in this?
The white coats then went to work. There was a group raised on a high fat diet and a control group raised on a normal diet. When they were young there did not seem to be much difference. However, into adult-hood the mice with a high-fat diet showed a quadruple in neurogenesis and had gained more weight and had a higher body fat percentage.
Using a directed x-ray beam the scientists were able to kill the newly formed neurons. Again, don’t ask me how. The mice gained less weight than those who had eaten the same diet but were more active. This leads us to believe there is a connection between these new neurons and regulating our weight.
So what does all this lead to? If this is confirmed they will look into treating obesity by inhibiting neurogenesis in the hypothalamus medically.
For me it suggests that it starts with education and raising our children. Instead of developing sophisticated machines and treatments for obesity parents need to be educated about what is good for children and they must act on it. The unlimited food source people have in the developed countries encourages weight gain and fat storage when it is not necessary.
But just because we may have been raised in that manner we are not doomed. Old fashioned exercise and eating right has always been the biggest weapon against obesity.