New research suggests that many weight problems are all in the head, but not in the way you might suppose. Two studies published in the December 27, 2011 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation indicate that the poor dietary choices that have led to much of the obesity in the U.S. might damage brain cells around the hypothalamus, an area that helps regulate hunger and thirst, possibly causing you to feel hungry even though you’ve eaten more than enough.
The damage appears to stem from inflammation promoted by high fat diets. Although we’ve known for some time that high fat diets can lead to inflammatory changes in the body, these changes were believed to take weeks or months to occur.
However, the researchers who conducted the two studies are now reporting that changes in the brain due to inflammation can develop within as little time as 24 hours based on their studies with mice and rats. The same effects were seen on MRIs of the brains of obese humans. The investigators found that while initial brain changes due to high fat diets were only temporary, they become permanent with continued high fat eating.