High-fat diet may injure nerve cells

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High-fat diet may injure nerve cells

High-fat diet may injure nerve cells(Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)
Eating a high-fat diet may involve injury to neurons, or nerve cells, in a key part of the brain that controls body weight, according to a new study.

“The possibility that brain injury may be a consequence of the overconsumption of a typical American diet offers a new explanation for why sustained weight loss is so difficult for most obese individuals to achieve,” said presenting author Joshua Thaler, a faculty member with the Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence at the University of Washington in Seattle.

In their experiments of studying the brains of rodents for the short-term and long-term effects of eating a high-fat diet, Thaler said he and his colleagues also detected damage to, and eventual loss of, critical weight-regulating neurons.

These neurons, called pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons, were reduced in number by month 8 of the high-fat diet in mice, according to Thaler. These results were not present in same-age rodents fed standard chow. It is not yet clear whether this presumed neuronal injury is permanent, but it may contribute to weight gain, he stated. This research provides a new potential target for obesity treatment, Thaler concluded.

The study was presented at The Endocrine Society’s 93rd Annual Meeting in Boston.