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Binge-Drinking Causes Binge-Eating

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In a study it has been found that the brain cells in mice that stimulate the urge to eat can be activated by alcohol as well as by hunger - a discovery that could help explain why binge drinking often leads to binge eating. In an experiment, mice subjected to a three-day “alcoholic weekend” were found to eat significantly more food than mice that stayed sober.

The results of the study showed that major components of the brain’s feeding circuits are activated by alcohol. The data of the study suggests that alcohol sustains fundamental appetite signals, (and does) not just disinhibit their behavioural manifestation.

Consumption of alcohol has previously been linked to overeating in humans, but the underlying causes were unclear - particularly since alcohol is high in calories, and calorie intake usually suppresses brain appetite signals. In the study the experts found that specific hunger-promoting brain cells known as Agrp neurons, which form part of the feeding circuit in mouse brains, are activated by alcohol. To test the validity of their findings, team of experts were able to block activity of these neurons in some mice, and they found that this eliminated alcohol-induced overeating which shows that the alcohol-associated activity of Agrp neurons is the critical step in alcohol-induced overeating.

Obesity and heavy drinking are major causes of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health problems affecting millions of people worldwide. Public Health England said last month that eight out of 10 middle-aged adults in Britain either weigh too much, drink too much or exercise too little.

References

Cains S., et al., 2017, “Agrp neuron activity is required for alcohol-induced overeating,” Nature communications; 8: 14014. [Web Reference]

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