Why dieting may not work

21st Jun 2017

A study led by researchers at the University of Cambridge has found that the reason why dieting isn't an inefficient way to lose weight may lie in the brain.

The research, carried out in mice, showed that key brain cells act as a trigger to prevent us burning calories when food is scarce.

These ‘agouti-related neuropeptide’ (AGRP) neurons are located in part of the brain called the hypothalamus.  They are known for their major role in the regulation of appetite: when activated, they make us eat, but when fully inhibited they can lead to almost complete lack of appetite.

By manipulating the activity of AGRP neurons, the researchers showed that, when there is no food available, the neurons act to spare energy, limiting the number of calories that we burn and hence limiting weight loss.

You can read the full paper at Burke, LK et al. mTORC1 in AGRP neurons integrates exteroceptive and interoceptive food-related cues in the modulation of adaptive energy expenditure in mice. eLife; 23 May 2017; DOI: 10.7554/eLife.22848

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