Pancakes! Waffles! Yum Yum Yum. Pizza! Awesome, but where is the soda?
Food is tasty. Sometimes, though, it is just too yummy for us. We can’t stop eating. As a result, many Americans today are obese. In fact, obesity is the biggest crisis right now in our country. Over 70 million Americans are obese. We must understand why we love food in order to take the right measures in cutting back. Just like all of our other behaviors, the answer to this question lies in the brain, the mysterious blob in our heads that seems to control literally everything in and about us.
So which part of the brain is the culprit? Well, the answer is not so simple. There are many regions involved and these regions work together in order to create a vicious cycle of eating. One important part involved, though, is the hypothalamus. This center of the brain is really important for releasing substances called hormones into our body by signalling the connected pineal gland. Many of these hormones are important for the regulation of our functions. In fact, upon the hypothalamus’ commands, hormones can help us stop eating. The part of the hypothalamus, called the ventromedial nucleus tells us when we should stop eating. In fact, studies done in rats showcase that damage to this part of the brain can actually lead to obesity.
But how does the hypothalamus know when it should signal the body to stop eating? Well, when fat forms in our body as a result of eating food, our body’s fat cells release a hormone called leptin that triggers the hypothalamus to tell us to stop eating. If we become too fat, there is too much leptin in our body because many fat cells are producing the hormone. As a result, our bodies do not react as well to the hormone because there is so much of it. This causes us to feel less satisfied by what we eat so we keep on eating leading to obesity.
Another major reason why obesity occurs is because food gives us pleasure. When we eat our body releases dopamine (another type of hormone) that in turn makes us feel good. Over time, if we keep on eating, it will take more food for us to get the same amount of pleasure through dopamine because it becomes harder to produce the hormone. Therefore, we can become addicted to food because we want more and more dopamine to be released in our body which can only occur if we eat more and more. Soon enough, our desire for tasty food can make us fat. It may be interesting for you to realize that this type of process is also the basic mechanism by which addiction to other bad things like drugs and cigarettes occurs as well.
Our brain is very mischievous. Although we may think that we are in control, oftentimes we are not. However, if we tell ourselves that we have too much leptin or dopamine in our bodies, we can resist the temptation of a slice of pizza slice, a burger, or a hot dog. Therefore, control is the cure for obesity.
Author: James Brown