Scientists Explain Fat Bastard's Vicious Eating Cycle

Posted on May 26, 2012

Fat Bastard was an obese Scottish henchman hired by Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies. In The Spy Who Shagged Me, Fat Bastard revealed, "I can't stop eating. I eat because I'm unhappy, and I'm unhappy because I eat. It's a vicious cycle."

Fat Bastard's vicious cycle may be explained by sophisticated neuroscience research being undertaken by scientists affiliated with the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CR-CHUM) and the university's Faculty of Medicine. The researchers found that rich foods cause a similar chemical reaction to illicit drugs and the repeated come-downs lead to depression.

Dr. Stephanie Fulton, the study's lead researcher, says, "In addition to causing obesity, rich foods can actually cause chemical reactions in the brain in a similar way to illicit drugs, ultimately leading to depression as the 'come-downs' take their toll. Data shows that obesity is associated with increased risk of developing depression, but we have very little understanding of the neural mechanisms and brain reward patterns that link the two. We are demonstrating for the first time that the chronic consumption of palatable, high-fat diets has pro-depressive effects."

A molecule in the brain known as dopamine enables the brain to rewards us with good feelings, encouraging us to learn certain kinds of behavior. This chemical is the same in humans as it is in mice and other animals. The research team fed mice different kinds of food and monitored how the diet affects the way the animals behave.

The researchers found that mice fed a higher-fat diet exhibit signs of being anxious, such as an avoidance of open areas, and of being depressed, such as making less of an effort to escape when trapped. Moreover, their brains have been physically altered by their experiences. CREB is a molecule that controls the activation of genes involved in the functioning of our brains and is well known for its contribution to memory formation. The researchers found that CREB is much more activated in the brains of higher-fat diet mice. The mice fed a higher-fat diet also have higher levels of corticosterone, a hormone that is associated with stress.

This video shows the experiments on the mice being conducted. There is no sound. Take a look:

A paper on the study, "Diet-induced obesity promoted depressive-like behaviour that is associated with neural adaptations in brain reward circuitry," by Stephanie Fulton and Sandeep Sharma, was published here, in the International Journal of Obesity.

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