Yale Study Finds That High-Fat Diets Affect Brain Along with Physical Appearance

September 16th 2019
Jill Murphy, Assistant Editor
Jill Murphy, Assistant Editor

A recent Yale study has discovered that high-fat diets can contribute to irregularities in the hypothalamus region of the brain, which is responsible for regulating body weight homeostasis and metabolism.

A recent Yale study has discovered that high-fat diets can contribute to irregularities in the hypothalamus region of the brain, which is responsible for regulating body weight homeostasis and metabolism.

The study evaluated how consuming a diet that included high amounts of fats and carbohydrates stimulates hypothalamic inflammation, defined as a physiological response to obesity and malnutrition.

Sabrina Diano and other researchers at Yale University observed hypothalamic inflammation in animals on a high fat diet. They discovered that changes in physical structure were occurring among the microglial cells of animals. These cells are the first line of defense in the central nervous system that regulate inflammation.

This observation showed that the activation of the microglia was due to changes in their mitochondria, which are organelles that help our bodies draw energy from the food we consume. The mitochondria were substantially smaller in the animals on a high-fat diet because of a protein called Uncoupling Protein 2 (UCP2). Since UCP2 regulates the mitochondria's energy utilization, this overall affects the hypothalamus' control of energy and glucose homeostasis.

The UCP2-mediated activation of microglia affected neurons in the brain that, when receiving an inflammatory signal due to the high fat diet, stimulated the animals in the high-fat diet group to eat more and become obese. However, when this mechanism was blocked by removing the UCP2 protein from microglia, animals exposed to a high fat diet ate less and were resistant to gain weight.

"There are specific brain mechanisms that get activated when we expose ourselves to specific type of foods,” Diano said. “This is a mechanism that may be important from an evolutionary point of view. However, when food rich in fat and carbs is constantly available, it is detrimental."

Reference

High-fat diets affect your brain, not just your physical appearance.Science Dailywebsite. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190909121234.htm. Published September 9, 2019. Accessed September 16, 2019.

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