Obesity and overweight are not that much a state of the body as they are state of the brain. A study conducted last year discovered that the brain routes in control of overeating are different from those of regular eating. A better understanding of the chemistry and “wiring” of our brain can result in the creating a strictly targeted non-invasive therapies able to stop food craving before it begins.
This kind of science looks very advanced compared to some basic techniques to outsmart our brain. Some of this basic techniques are quite well known, like the one telling you always to eat from a smaller plate.
Neurons affecting our eating habits
A report is saying that scientists may have discovered cells in the frontal brain area, who they believe can have a direct effect on people’s appetite and their eating habits.
When tested on mice, they have deactivated those cells, and the results were unbelievable. Mice have gained weight and were always overeating. The opposite effect was established when these cells were activated. Mice almost became anorexic and didn’t want to eat. The cells tested are called Cholinergic neurons and they produce a chemical which has a key role in controlling appetite.
Researchers noted that these neurons are using the same paths as nicotine.
To disable those neurons, without harming other brain cells, scientists used modification techniques. Without them, mice doubled their weight. The overeating appeared in both sexes, but research shows that females tend to gain more weight than males. When neurons were not affected, mice had normal eating habits and didn’t gain weight.
In other experiments, scientists stimulated mice with light. After that, they consumed a lot less food than the ones that were not stimulated.
So, targeting and manipulating those neurons is very useful in treating addictions, eating disorders and regulating eating habits.
However, these experiments are never performed on a human.
How stress hormone can make you fat
When under stress, brain pumps cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol puts us under pressure, and the brain creates signals of cravings for comfort food. On the other hand, your body fat sends signals to brain trying to turn off that stress response. This makes you, even more, hungrier. How can we outsmart our brain and break the vicious cycle of stress and eating?
It’s as simple as cutting our daily intake of caffeine! You have probably felt, and the researchers have proven, that caffeine worsens the stress response. Next time, instead of a cup of coffee, reach for a cup of calming herbal tea. Lemon balm is perfect, and if you want something to wake you up, then reach for a cup of ginger tea.
Cigarettes, Vaping and eating habits
A study has found that students with asthma are using electronic cigarettes a lot more than the ones that don’t have it.
This is because e-cigarettes are promoted as healthier than the ordinary ones. And of course, kids with asthma choose them over the other ones. The research also says that teens are tempted to use regular cigarettes and choose them over the e-cigarettes if they don’t have a severe asthmatic reaction to it.
A recent study has also shown result such as raising the usage of the electronic cigarettes from 1% to 14% in just five years. It also indicates that the users had changed their eating habits.
A significant number of people stated that vaping help them to lose weight. Apparently, as they’ve stated, instead of eating a huge rice crispy treat or some other food rich in sugar and fat, they will vape some Sugar Cookie, or Vanilla Ice Cream flavored e-cigarette.
Though, be careful! We still don’t know anything about the long-term health risk of vaping.
Reduce sugar by cutting down on salt
From our ancient ancestors, we have inherited a desire for too much sugar and salt. It’s an instinct, or to say better a survival mechanism in our brain rewarding us with a dopamine release each time we eat “comfort foods” – sugars, fats, and starchy foods. This triggers our reward center to release pleasure chemical, making us and our brain happier.
So, how can we keep our brain happy and our diet healthier at the same time? According to a study at Yale University, it’s as simple as cutting down on salt. Apparently, cooking and baking sweets without salt and a reduced amount of sugar is a way to achieve the same taste like the original recipe. Next time, just leave out the salt from the recipe, and use only half of the amount of sugar. I haven’t tried, but the scientists said that cookies would taste the same since saltiness won’t neutralize the sweetness.
But, how about my method, instead of cheating on my brain, I just use ripe bananas or dried fruit like dates. Try to substitute sugar with a mix of one ripe banana and 5-8 dates. It’s sweet and healthy at the same time, without tricking your brain.