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Earth Medicine Science

Alcohol Switches the Brain Into Starvation Mode In Mice, Increasing Hunger and Appetite, Study Finds (bbc.com) 130

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: In tests on mice, alcohol activated the brain signals that tell the body to eat more food. The UK researchers, who report their findings in the journal Nature Communications, believe the same is probably true in humans. The mice were given generous doses of alcohol for three days -- a dose being equivalent to around 18 units or a bottle-and-a-half of wine for a person. The alcohol caused increased activity in neurons called AGRP. These are the neurons that are fired when the body experiences starvation. The mice ate more than normal too. When the researchers repeated the experiment but blocked the neurons with a drug, the mice did not eat as much which, the researchers say, suggests that AGRP neurons are responsible for the alcohol-induced eating. The study authors, Denis Burdakov and colleagues, say understanding how alcohol changes the body and our behavior could help with managing obesity. Around two-thirds of adults in the UK are overweight or obese.

Alcohol Switches the Brain Into Starvation Mode In Mice, Increasing Hunger and Appetite, Study Finds

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  • when the researchers repeated the experiment but blocked the neurons with a drug, the mice did not eat as much ...

    You reaise that this drug could put a lot of late night kebab shops out of business

  • Alcohol gives you the munchies??
    • I'm not sure that it does.

      Anecdotally I think it suppresses hunger in me. If I'm drunk and become really hungry (i.e. "get the munchies") it's probably because I haven't eaten enough.

      That may just be me though, but the same was true when I was young and in college.

      Oh, it's 2 AM and you're suddenly hungry? You've been drinking for 6 or 7 hours without eating anything, of course you're hungry!

      And while composing this I did come over all peckish and I have been drinking, but I haven't actually eaten anything

    • It does for me. I always have to stop by a kebab joint or a Burger King or whatever on my way home.

      • It does for me. I always have to stop by a kebab joint or a Burger King or whatever on my way home.

        I would humbly suggest that you are just moderately drunk, and therefore sensibly hungry, as you probably haven't eaten since lunchtime.

        If you go out and get seriously drunk, you are unlikely to disrupt the flow by breaking for food, in my experience.

    • It's gotta be more complicated than that.

      When we get home from work, I'm kind of hungry, but it's beer time so we start drinking beers. And then I notice I'm not so hungry anymore. Beer really does have food value.

      OTOH, it just delays dinner, and I don't think we eat less of it when we eventually get around to it. So what happened to the food value? Did my body "forget" that I've already "eaten" some?

      • The calories in it are primarily/exclusively in the form of alcohol sugars so they digest very easily. By easily, I mean that your liver has to work like a beast to metabolize the poison that alcohol is so you won't die from excessive sugar in the blood. But it performs the job heroically and so you live, but the calories have already been dealt with and put into deep storage, both in the liver and in your visceral fat (thus the beer/alcohol belly) so you get hungry again.
        Similar to the effect of eating c

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @08:11AM (#53647223)

    All the best research on addiction, consumption and rehabilitation of all drugs is done in Europe.

    Here in the States, it's treated as a character flaw and research pales in comparison. And rehab is mostly ineffectual 12-Programs that were created 80 years-ago by a drunken religious kook. But when one fails a 12-step program, it's all on them and not the fact that 12-programs are quackery and thinly disguised religion.

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      The AA never releases studies or co-operates with rigorous studies. I suspect this is because they know their approach is largely bullshit.
      • That is you stating your personal opinion while ignoring science, ironically enough. Your accusations of withheld information don't really make sense, because there isn't like "The Association of 12 step programs" keeping all their records secret. It's a group of unaffiliated organizations using a similar approach.

        Scientific studies and meta-studies, on the other hand, say 12 step programs have a "robust medium-size effect." Per a scientific study [nih.gov].

        How large is the relationship between AA exposure and abs

    • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @09:19AM (#53647535) Homepage Journal

      Here in the States, it's treated as a character flaw and research pales in comparison.

      As someone who's lived in both countries - though fortunately had a body type that wasn't seen to be overweight in either country (technically I am overweight right now, but nobody I know thinks so) - I can honestly say I question this. In the UK, I routinely witnessed overweight people mocked and verbally abused. In the US, there's at least a general recognition that losing weight isn't easy, and gaining it is. Which is not to say that there are no assholes in the US either.

      I'd always assumed it was due to the environment. The UK is generally urban, which means people get plenty of exercise, and spend 20 minutes getting to and from work leaving more time in their day for healthy food preparation. In the US, which is more suburban, a combination of barriers to walking (some, like bizarre zoning, legally enforced) means people have to seek out exercise, do not get it naturally, and the 30-45 minute each way commute leaves even less time for food preparation, leading to widespread consumption of relatively unhealthy premade meals.

      That leads to a situation where people in the UK weigh far less than the average American, which means there's less empathy - fewer people in your circle are likely to be overweight, so you're allowed to make more negative judgments AND the fact that so few people are overweight makes you more likely to treat them as doing something "wrong", as obviously they're "doing something" that the vast majority of people aren't (which, ironically, is less likely to be true in an environment with fewer overweight people - you're more likely to find people in that environment who do the same things as you, but have biological/genetic/medical/etc reasons for gaining weight.)

      Is there better research in Europe? No idea - if there is, it probably has to do with a willingness of governments to fund research that has no agenda beyond better health, while I'm willing to bet most American research into obesity has an end goal of selling more Nutrasystems and Slimfasts. (That said, I'd love to be proven wrong on this.)

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        In the UK, I routinely witnessed overweight people mocked and verbally abused

        It's true, British people are by and large awful. But the OP is right about Europe, excluding the UK. Most EU nations are much more progressive and willing to tackle the issue. And even the UK does fund research into it, because the intellectuals who direct the money are less politically motivated than their counterparts in the states.

      • Which is not to say that there are no assholes in the US either.

        I took an anatomy class a long time ago, I am of the opinion that your statement is very true. In fact the ratio of assholes to people is exactly 1, with of course a standard deviation of 0.0000000001.

      • Your anecdote notwithstanding, the science is firmly on the side that exercise has not a whit to do with overweight, it is all about the foods consumed. People who eat a high carb diet become fat/obese, people who eat a high fat diet become slim/healthy. Not so much about the calories consumed either, it is about the hormonal effect that the macro-nutrients have on the body.

        • I seriously doubt there's any body of research that says that exercise, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with weight, and the only times I've successfully lost significant amounts of weight (more than 20lbs) were when I combined a more controlled diet with exercise. Simply trying to control my diet has never helped, and I know nobody who successfully lost a lot of weight without either going on a relatively dangerous starvation diet (sometimes necessary) or combining exercise with something more reasonab

          • Friend squiggleslash, please notice that I specifically pointed out that it is the hormonal effects of food on the body that impact weight loss or gain. While a caloric deficit does matter for fine tuning weight loss, first and foremost the macros have to be correct. It turns out that if you eat a high fat diet, in the absence of most carbs, you will lose weight. This happens because the body's satiety mechanisms are well satisfied by the eating of fats. It is also a well understood principle in animal

      • Almost all US government funded research into nutrition is done through the department of Agriculture and up until about a decade ago was completely focused on pushing American's to a diet that prioritized foods grown in America. This resulted in diets pushed to consume grains, something America produced in great excess. It's this push that caused the shift in American eating habits that prioritized cold breakfasts composed of cold cereals instead of the prior tradition of high protein/fat breakfasts using

      • The UK is generally urban, which means people get plenty of exercise, and spend 20 minutes getting to and from work leaving more time in their day for healthy food preparation.

        You must have lived in n expensive flat near to your high powered job in the City of London if you believe that.

        In London, most normal people take an hour to get to work on over-crowded public transport, and pile out of their office at 5 to go down the pub then have a burger on the bus home.

  • If this study were done in America you wouldn't even need mice. Just go into any Waffle House at 2am.
  • by codeButcher ( 223668 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @08:30AM (#53647305)

    The mice were given generous doses of alcohol for three days ... equivalent to around ... a bottle-and-a-half of wine for a person. ... The mice ate more than normal too.

    See, being a lab mouse is not all bad. All that free booze and food!

  • Dehydration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @08:47AM (#53647365)
    These findings are not surprising because alcohol causes dehydration and dehydration is often confused with hunger. A lot of people who are chronically dehydrated aren't even aware of it and confuse it with hunger and thus try to resolve by eating when what they really need is a glass of water.
    • You gotta drink 8,437 glasses of water a day!

      • You gotta drink 8,437 glasses of water a day!

        If each glass was one gram and u weighed 600 pounds

      • That's probably correct if you are european and used the comma in place of the period.

        • I am actually European, but I used American notation to make a joke :-)

          • It was a good one but you made the mistake of using 8 for your first digit which is the most widely accepted as correct number of glasses of water to drink in a day. Even Dr Batmanghelidj went with 8. I should have made a better joke about the extreme accuracy of your recommendation *sigh*.

  • A bottle and a half of wine has over 1000 kilocalories. I wouldn't exactly call that 'starvation mode'.

  • Alcoholics I know replace eating with drinking and lose wait as a result.
  • So, if alcohol hacks your brain into thinking it is hungry, if you do NOT then eat--you purposefully resist the urge--does those same "starvation mode" signals then trigger different metabolic responses from the body as well and lead to weight LOSS?
    Of the functioning alcoholics that I know, a not-insignificant number of them are rail skinny; while, yes, others are obese (mostly beer-gut "fat"). But I have empirically noticed that the skinny ones tend not to eat; they "drink" their dinners. In a few instance

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      "starvation mode" signals then trigger different metabolic responses from the body as well and lead to weight LOSS

      Starvation usually triggers a reduction in metabolism with the goal of reducing energy consumption from fat stores.

      a not-insignificant number of them are rail skinny

      Heavy drinking screws up metabolism of carbohydrates. They may still eat a lot, but extract less from what they eat. A by-product of this is that the products of this less efficient process place a heavy load on the liver, eventually damaging it.

      • Hmm, I thought starvation mode triggers consumption of fat stores while reducing caloric needs through various mechanisms mainly aimed at increasing effficiency of calories used. As the saying goes "a half-starved man is at his best".

  • I wanna party with these rats!

  • researchers find that the sky is blue .. seriously though, these researches need to get out more if they've never experienced the munchies themselves..
    • I have never, ever, ever experienced the munchies from drinking alcohol, usually only an overwhelming thirst for more alcohol, lots more alcohol. Usually it ends in tears, hangovers, and dehydration: muy malo.
      Were you stoned enough to think they were talking about being stoned (on weed) and getting the munchies? That would be a fair excuse for the confusion. Munchies from alcohol is not one of those "oh, everybody knows that!" kind of memes.

  • I've observed benzos having a similar appetite-increasing effect. Curious whether this is a property of GABAergic compounds in general...

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