This will make you rethink how you diet

This will make you rethink how you diet

Brain power

Site: Lucie Clark

Image: Image: @romeestrijd

A recent University of Cambridge study offers insight into why it’s so hard to burn fat when we’re on a diet: our brain thinks food is scarce and puts a stop to burning calories

Similar to how bears store fat for the winter so they can hit hibernation confident there's enough sustenance in the tank to get them through until the first green shoot of spring appears - a recent study on mice undertaken by the University of Cambridge identified key brain cells that act as a stop work order on calorie burning when we're on a diet. As soon as we lower our calorie intake our brain thinks food is scarce and kicks into gear to store fat in case we're in an actual famine rather than the self-led one of dieting.

Dr Clémence Blouet, who led the study said in a Science Daily article, "Our findings suggest that a group of neurons in the brain coordinate appetite and energy expenditure, and can turn a switch on and off to burn or spare calories depending on what's available in the environment...While this mechanism may have evolved to help us cope with famine, nowadays most people only encounter such a situation when they are deliberately dieting to lose weight. Our work helps explain why for these people, dieting has little effect on its own over a long period. Our bodies compensate for the reduction in calories."

So if you're looking to lose weight, rather than cutting a huge amount of calories straight up, Dr Luke Burke the study's first author suggests, "The best solution for people to lose weight - at least for those who are only moderately overweight - is a combination of exercise and moderate reduction in caloric intake." 

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