That thing that happens when you're not really hungry but you go for that third bowl of ice cream? It may actually be beyond your control.
A recent study from Rutgers University suggests that the lack of a certain hormone in our brains could be one reason why some of us overeat.
Researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School found that when they decreased the amount of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in the systems of their mice test subjects, the mice were more inclined to overeat, especially foods that were high in fat. But on the flip side, more GLP-1 made the mice less interested in those fatty foods.
In the study, the scientists explained that when looking at the causes of obesity, "feeding behavior" can be divided into two categories – homeostatic, the type of eating to keep your energy up throughout the day, and hedonic, which is more for reward or pleasure.
The authors of the study hypothesize that GLP-1, which comes from cells in your brain and small intestine, can "regulate feeding behavior via signaling pathways within the reward centers of the brain," but that more research is required since "it is still not fully understood how release of central GLP-1 within the brain regulates food intake."
In a release from the university, the assistant professor who designed the study, Zhiping P. Pang said, “These are the same areas of the brain that controls other addictive behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse and nicotine addiction…We believe that our work has broad implications in understanding how GLP-1 functions to influence motivational behaviors.”
Researchers say the study offers evidence that targeting neurons in the brain's reward circuit may be a more effective option than targeting the whole body with appetite-curbing drugs.