Brain Neurons Influence Weight Gain and Diabetes

Jason Knapfel manages content for the WeightWise Bariatric Program in Edmond, Oklahoma.

If someone tries to motivate you by telling you that weight loss is “all in your head,” they may be right in more ways than one. A lack of AgRP brain neurons has been linked to a greater potential for being obese or developing diabetes. However, that outcome may be linked to your diet… If a study on mice can be shown to have a parallel to humans.

According to a research report published in The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Journal, lack of AgRP-neurons, brain cells involved in controlling food intake, led to obesity if the mice studied were fed a regular carbohydrate diet. However, when the animals are raised on a high-fat diet, they end up leaner and healthier.

The different outcomes are due to how the AgRP neurons influence the way the body breaks down and stores nutrients. Mice that lack the brain neurons don’t adapt well to a carbohydrate diet and appear to have a metabolism best suited for a high-fat diet.

Your genetics, diet and exercise habits are all major players in your weight and overall health. However, Serge Luquet, lead author of the study, says it’s “not just a question of what you eat and your genetic makeup, but also how the body manages to convert, store and use food nutrients.”

The researchers wanted to see if the AgRP neurons had additional influence beyond what scientists already knew about its role in food intake. What they found was a whole new function for the cells, “one that affects the communication with and activities of other tissues in the body including the liver, muscle and the pancreas,” Luquet said.

If nothing else, the study supports the notion that not everyone will find the same level of success in one particular dietary approach. And how our brain functions appears to have a much larger role in our physical health beyond things like will-power and self-esteem.

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Oprah’s Memory-Saving Foods

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