Eating diets that are high in both fat and carbohydrates may trigger brain changes associated with obesity within days, according to a new study from Yale University. Researchers found that this type of diet may lead to hypothalamus region irregularities, namely inflammation, which was noted in as early as three days after eating a high-fat diet. These changes can occur before the development of obesity.
High-fat diets are trendy at the moment, but they weren’t the subject of Yale’s new study. Rather, researchers looked specifically at diets that were high in both fat and carbohydrates, meaning ones that may include, for example, things like bread and sweets as well as foods like dairy and high-fat meats. The study involved feeding these high-fat diets to animals.
The researchers noted that animals fed this diet had ‘substantially smaller’ mitochondria than animals on a healthier diet. This change in size was triggered by a protein called Uncoupling Protein 2 (UCP2), ultimately impacting the hypothalamus’ ability to control glucose and energy homeostasis.
The study notes that microglial cells in these animals had experienced physical structure changes. The combination of the microglia and an inflammatory signal triggered by a high-fat diet caused these animals to eat more food, leading to the development of obesity. Animals on a high-fat diet who had the UCP2 protein removed from the microglia were found to eat less food and to be more resistant to obesity.
This is a problem for people who live in countries where foods high in both fat and carbohydrates are readily available. Eating diets that contain these foods may trigger brain changes that lead to overeating, which in turn leads to obesity, which itself triggers other changes in the body that may fuel overconsumption while also putting the individual at risk of a number of diseases.