Stop the presses!

Here's some research confirming what we all know: your body weight is determined by more than just the amount of food you eat.

From a press release:

"It says that the nervous system is a key regulator coordinating all energy-related processes through distinct molecular pathways," said Kaveh Ashrafi of the University of California, San Francisco. "The nervous system makes a decision about its state leading to effects on behavior, reproduction, growth and metabolism. These outputs are related, but they are not consequences of each other. It's not that feeding isn't important, but the neural control of fat is distinct from feeding."

If the results in worms can be extrapolated to humans, as Ashrafi suspects at a fundamental level they can given serotonin’s ancient evolutionary origins, then the finding may have clinical implications.

"From a clinical perspective, this may mean you could develop therapeutic strategies to manipulate fat metabolism independently of what you eat," he said. "Now, the focus is primarily on feeding behavior. As important as that is, it's only part of the story. If the logic of the system is conserved across species, a strategy that focuses solely on behavior can only go so far. It may be one reason diets fail."

Obviously, the amount of food you eat can and does affect your weight. But it's not as simple as that. The amount of serotonin in your brain can stimulate to eat more or less. Yet serotonin also regulates how this energy is used. This kind of finding helps fill in the gap as to why people who eat the same can weigh differently.

As a science reporter (an intern science reporter, but still), I get on mailing lists for all of the latest research. Most of what I report on would be of basically no interest to people on this blog (the lastest chemistry research), but I do get a variety of stuff. When this one came across my desk, I immediately searched for the results online. Just to see.

It had five results.

If this paper was about how to lose weight, there wouldn't be just five results. I would give just a little bit of slack if the title of the press release was something super esoteric. But it wasn't. The title of the press release was: Thinness vs. obesity not directly linked to eating habits, study suggests.

I think these findings are far more important and meaningful than whether Atkins raises your cholesterol levels more or less than 5 points. This has to do with the fundamental ways your weight is regulated. But this study doesn't have the potential to earn companies a lot of money. So it wasn't promoted as much. If it's not promoted, it probably won't get reported.

Which is exactly what happened here.

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Anonymous said...

I'm always so glad to check out the new research you post, Carrie! Very, very interesting one this time.

carrie said...

At your service, m'dear.

I love my job of writing about research (even if during the day it has nothing to do with eating disorders!)

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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