In the past few years, reports have been made on how obesity, smoking and other vices and lifestyle, can cause our brain cells to shrink. Today, what’s more shocking is that dieting can also cause this condition to happen.
It’s not just the high-fat diet that injures our brain cells as researchers have found out that starving ourselves can cause our brain cells to eat themselves. Well, not literally speaking. They just send off signals that trigger a hunger response in an individual. The research was done on mice by scientists from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Mice are usually used for any biological research in place of humans. But because there are still differences in our chemical structures, more research is needed to confirm this new discovery.
The neurons involved in this study are those in relation to the regulation of the appetite. The neurons produce some mechanisms of starvation and hunger, which are signaled through autophagy, a process which is translated into “self-eating.” In this case, cells are eating themselves, in a way that they break down their the parts that have been used. This is somewhat the same with recycling the used parts and being able to get some energy out of it. Normally, brain cells can maintain a steady level of autophagy, of which, no starvation response can be made. But this becomes a different situation when talking about these appetite-sensing neurons. These brain cells, at the moment, are the only ones which are known to increase autophagy when an individual experiences starvation. This event allows the release of certain fatty acids, speeding up the hunger signaling peptide or the agouti-related peptide (AgRP).
In a more understandable explanation, the more you starve yourself, the more your brain thinks of hunger. Because agouti-related peptide is only connected to neurons in control of the appetite, when this process is blocked, it should only affect the signaling of appetite, and not the entire cellular collapse and harvest of stored energy from other parts of a person’s body. If this research is proven effective to humans like it did for the mice, then this could lead to another development and breakthrough in medical science, in relation to obesity and hunger. To date, the researchers are still doing continuous and careful research and observation on the subjects and as to how the process affects their eating habits.
The latest research study can lead to a discovery of new drugs, new diet patterns, or anything that relates to the human’s eating habits. This can be a way to change a person’s bad eating habits and lifestyle. I believe that starving yourself won’t help you get thinner, but can only make things worse. People should not worry about the brain cells being cannibals as autophagy can take place in other places in our body for energy conservation. This can be a long shot on more human biological discovery, but it is would be very beneficial once proven.