Is the brain causing obesity?

Overeating is a key factor of obesity, which has become a major issue for Americans. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 35.7 percent of U.S. adults are obese.1 This is a problem, as those who are severely overweight are also at risk of developing heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Additionally, it can become a rather expensive health condition.

Cause of overeating
Recently, it was found that there is a circuit within the brain that is responsible for causing people to overeat. This is called the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, or BNST for short.2 The way it works, according to researchers, is that the BNST closes the pathway of neurons that are supposed to make an individual feel full or stop eating.

"When we stimulate the pathway, the animals eat a third to 50 percent of the calories they eat in a normal day, in about 20 minutes," researcher Garret Stuber said.

To put this into relatable terms, that would be the same as a human eating their lunch and dinner in a single sitting. From here, researchers would like to take a look at this circuit in humans. Since obesity is such a prevalent problem within the population, the investigators – from the University of North Carolina – believe further research could have outstanding effects on the disease.3

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1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Adult obesity facts" August 16, 2013
2 LiveScience, "Circuit that controls overeating found in the brain" September 26, 2013
3 Science, "The inhibitory circuit architecture of the lateral hypothalamus orchestrates feeding" September 27, 2013

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