An unhealthy diet can alter the balance of bacteria in the gut – encouraging those that thrive on fat to multiply and killing off others which prefer healthier food. This can lead to inflammation of the nerves so the brain no longer senses signals telling us we have eaten enough, US scientists think.
They said their research on rats found higher-fat diets altered the animals’ brains.
Krzystof Czaja at the University of Georgia said: “When we switch the rats to a high-fat diet, it reorganises brain circuits. It induces inflammation in the brain regions responsible for feeding behaviour. Those reorganised circuits and inflammation may alter satiety signalling.”
He said this change can lead to “gut-brain miscommunication” – such as thinking we are still hungry even though we have eaten plenty. It is not known whether the change is permanent.
In days gone by, our bodies would have been used to foods derived from natural sources. So the researchers speculate that artificial and highly processed foods might upset the balance of bacteria in our guts and end up confusing our brains.
Dr Czaja said: “In the regular physiological state, many different strains of bacteria live in a balanced environment in the intestinal tract. They don’t overpopulate.
“There are little shifts, but in general this population is quite stable. When we start feeding the rats a different diet, there is an immediate effect. Suddenly, different nutrients are changing the micro environment in the gut and some bacteria begin to overpopulate. Some sensitive bacteria begin to die and some populations may even vanish.
“So introducing a significant change in the gut microenvironment triggers a cascade of events that leads to this population switch.”
A separate study has found fat people have a more vivid imagination than the slim when it comes to the smell of food.
When asked to imagine the scent of chocolate, popcorn or freshly baked biscuits, the obese reported experiencing much stronger sensations. Researchers at Yale School of Medicine said having a vivid imagination for smells may intensify desire for food by conjuring up thoughts of flavours and aromas. – Daily Mail