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College of Medicine research on brain regulation of calorie intake highlighted by The Physiological Society

Kirsteen Browning, PhD, professor of neural and behavioral sciences, recently spoke about how a high fat diet may reduce the brain’s ability to regulate food intake. The story indicated that a high fat/high calorie diet may cause brain cells called astrocytes to become impaired in their ability to control gut-brain signaling.

“Calorie intake seems to be regulated in the short-term by astrocytes,” Browning said in the press release. “We found that a brief exposure (three to five days) of high fat/calorie diet has the greatest effect on astrocytes, triggering the normal signaling pathways to control the stomach. Over time, the astrocytes seem to desensitize to the high fat food. Around 10-14 days of eating high fat/calories diet, astrocytes seem to fail to react and the brain’s ability to regulate calorie intake seems to be lost. This disrupts the signaling to the stomach and delays how it empties.”

Browning’s lab plans to continue studying this mechanism, including whether the same phenomenon occurs in humans. By understanding the biological mechanisms behind overeating, a behavior that can lead to weight gain and obesity, researchers can potentially develop new therapies to treat it.

Read The Physiological Society’s full press release

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