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People With Obesity Have 'Different' Appetite Control Centre: Cambridge Study

A complex network of pathways in the hypothalamus function together to indicate hunger in the species.

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In a study published in ‘Neuroimage: Clinical’, conducted with 1351 young adults across different Body Mass Index (BMIs), scientists discovered a positive correlation between the hypothalamus in the brain and the Body Mass Index (BMI) of individuals.

The big point: The study showed that adults with obesity are likely to have a larger hypothalamus than those with healthier weight.

This matters because... The hypothalamus is the part of the brain which is responsible for appetite control among various species. A complex network of pathways in the hypothalamus function together to indicate hunger in the species. 

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Why it matters? According to current estimates, there are about 1.9 billion people who are living with obesity world-wide. WHO in 2021, attributed about 4 million deaths to obesity. 

Key highlights: 

  • The study was conducted with 1351 adults across different BMIs (underweight, overweight, living with obesity). 

  • The change in the volume of the hypothalamus is due to consumption of high fat foods leading to its inflammation as has also been found in mice. 

  • The study does not draw inference on a cause-effect relationship between the two.

The study found that in mice, inflammation in the hypothalamus can be triggered with the consumption of high fat foods within 3 days.

 “If what we see in mice is the case in people, then eating a high-fat diet could trigger inflammation of our appetite control centre. Over time, this would change our ability to tell when we’ve eaten enough and to how our body processes blood sugar, leading us to put on weight.” 
Dr Stephanie Brown from the Department of Psychiatry and Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge as reported by PTI

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