Alcohol Flips Brain into Hungry Mode

If you're gaining weight, it's high time you know exactly how much you're tossing back

by Carleen Wild | 11 Jan 2017 at 11:47 AM

It is rare alcohol served when food isn’t on the table. These two, more often than not, go hand in hand. But there may be a scientific reason behind why you eat more when you drink.

Researchers from the Francis Crick Institute in London found that when mice were allowed a three-day bender, they ate significantly more than the mice that stayed sober. Researchers suspect the same is true in humans — that alcohol essentially flips the hunger switch "on" in our brain cells, telling us we need to eat when we’re drinking.

Major components of the brain’s feeding circuits are activated by alcohol, the researchers noted in the journal Nature Communications.

"Our data suggest that alcohol sustains fundamental appetite signals, (and does) not just disinhibit their behavioral manifestation," wrote Denis Burdakov, lead author of the study, as Reuters reported.

They found that specific hunger-promoting brain cells known as Agrp neurons, which form part of the feeding circuit in mouse brains, are activated by alcohol.

Related: Why We're Overweight, Inactive, Intoxicated

Among the reasons the research is relevant — we’ve long been told that if we want to lose weight and lead a healthy, long life, we need to cut out alcohol or at the very least drink in moderation. Alcohol contains a lot of calories.

Obesity and heavy drinking often lead to chronic disease and early death for millions of people worldwide. Public Health England said last month that eight out of 10 middle-aged adults in Britain either weigh too much, drink too much or exercise too little, according to the BBC.

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“There has not been a definite link established between alcohol intake and increased appetite to this point,” said Dr. Lisa Benya, a California-based physician and founder of CURE by Dr. Benya. Most people are aware of this strong connection when using THC, but not as much with alcohol, she added.

The most important thing to keep in mind, Benya told LifeZette: “Remember that every drink of alcohol does carry quantifiable calories. We should limit any alcohol intake when trying to watch our weight. We often forget to count this in our daily calorie intake, and these calories can certainly add up if multiple alcoholic drinks are consumed in a week."

  1. alcohol
  2. bbc
  3. binge drinking
  4. Dr. Benya
  5. drinking
  6. Public Health England
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