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Researchers Uncover Link between Stress & Obesity

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Researchers at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary, Canada have uncovered a link between stress and the way the brain interprets its environment in order to regulate food intake.

In a three year study using rats, researchers noticed that brain neurotransmitters that affect appetite function differently when the brain is exposed to stressful situations. An absence of food creates enough stress to functionally re-wire parts of the brain causing an increase in food drive. When the researchers intervened in this hormonal stress response, the brain circuitry of the food deprived rats remained unaffected.

This study has important implications for human health, including the need for further research to explore the link between stress, appetite, and obesity. The study also explains why stressful events may result in increased appetite and weight gain.

The researchers point out the serious health consequences of food deprivation including possible changes in brain chemistry due to altered neurological pathways caused by a stress response. The relationship between ending a diet and overeating could also be attributed to these changes impacting the area of the brain that tells us when we are full and should stop eating.

This study conducted by researchers Quentin Pitman and Jaideep Bains is published online in the August 10th edition of the journal Neuron http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S089662.