The Skinny on Dietary Fats

Fat has a bad reputation, both in food and on the body. It’s certainly true that the U.S. has a problem with body fat; according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight, and fully one-third of adults fall into the more serious “obese” category [1]. Still, appropriate amounts of body fat serve valuable roles. These include helping to maintain the immune system and nervous system, protecting body organs and padding areas where the skeleton would otherwise put pressure directly on the skin (such as the soles of the feet).

The skinny on fat

Too much body fat, however, is associated with a number of negative health effects, including increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and apnea.

Is Junk Food Addictive?

In a recent paper in Nature Neuroscience, two researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida report that obese rats with extended access to what they deemed “palatable food” — bacon, sausage, cheesecake, pound cake, frosting and chocolate — exhibited compulsive like eating behavior, much like rats with extended access to cocaine or heroin [1]. This compulsive eating meant that they continued eating despite negative ramifications, in this case a flash of light signaling an oncoming electric shock administered to their foot. This lack of control over behavior with known negative consequences is a hallmark of both drug addiction and obesity. The investigators found that just like drug addicted rats, these obese rats had fewer striatal (a region of the forebrain) dopamine D2 receptors; this is responsible for the observed dampening of their neural reward responses to the food, which caused them to continue to eat, seeking that elusive high.

Remembering Lunch Can Help Reduce the Desire to Snack

Mind over matter may really work when it comes to managing appetite. Researchers at the University of Birmingham, U.K. have found that recalling foods eaten at lunch has an inhibitory effect on subsequent snacking later the same day. The study is currently in press and will be published in the journal Physiology & Behavior [1]. The effect was observed regardless of the type of snack eaten or palatability. The study also found that meal recall was only effective in decreasing the amount eaten if participants did not have a tendency to overeat.

Overeating Fast Food Carbs Causes Signs of Liver Damage

A recent study evaluating the effects of fast-food-based overeating on liver enzymes and liver triglyceride content has been making the news this week. However, most media sources have been incorrectly interpreting the results. The Swedish study, published in the British Medical Association journal Gut, suggests that eating too much fast food can cause liver damage [1].