Eating more than you should is not always a willpower problem – for many obese individuals, the neurons charged with regulating appetite are a little wonkie.
The tendency to eat beyond the point of fullness, begins with an unresponsive neuronal circuit.
Turning on the full signal
The news that your appetite suppression circuit is oblivious to the piece of cheesecake you just ate, explains the problem, but fails to provide a solution.
One way to get this circuit to toe the line is to count calories. When the calories reach a threshold – you utilize your higher order thinking skills (the bits that make you “human”) and announce – YOU ARE FULL. This strategy requires a lot of effort and can leave bits of you sulking, since no one likes to be told what to do.
Another strategy is to chew your food for longer – this allows more time for the message to make it’s way up from the gut to the brain. The strategy is effective but can be a little tedious, particularly if you’re in the habit of eating on the go.
So what else can you do to get the full message through ?
“Exhaust” the neuronal circuit
Researchers from the University of Campinas in Brazil, suggest that a workout in the gym, is enough to tire out the appetite neurons, leaving them too drained to worry about eating more.
It almost sounds counterintuitive because if you use more energy, you expect to need more energy.
But an exercise session has profound effects on body chemistry.
Rats on the treadmill
The Brazilian team found that obese rats forced to take a spin on the exercise wheel in their cage, released a whole bunch of cytokines. The team recorded rises in IL-6 and IL-10 protein levels inside the brain (hypothalamus) – these chemicals change the sensitivity to the appetite hormones, insulin and leptin.
Sensitivity to insulin and leptin is severely impaired in the majority of people struggling with weight problems. Insulin resistance and leptin resistance drive the continuous storage of more and more fat, especially belly fat.
An exercise session is able to improve sensitivity to insulin and leptin, this improved sensitivity means that the body is more in tune with the current energy supply. A plateful of something is more likely to be registered and then translated to “I am full”.
The add on benefit
If you feel full, you eat less. Eating less shifts the energy equation towards weight loss.
Energy in < Energy out.
Of course, exercise also ups the energy out part of the equation, so it is a win-win situation.
Most people already know that moving more is a good idea. But the idea of moving more sometimes is just too overwhelming.
If you’re struggling to keep a muzzle on your appetite – maybe it’s time to stop trying to reason with the appetite control centre neurons and “punish” them with a little hard labour.IL-6 and IL-10 Anti-Inflammatory Activity Links Exercise to Hypothalamic Insulin and Leptin Sensitivity through IKKb and ER Stress Inhibition. PLoS Biol, 8(8): e1000465 Ropelle ER, Flores MB, Cintra DE, Rocha GZ, Pauli JR, et al.
Interested in learning more about the chemistry behind appetite ?
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