Why our brain cells may prevent us burning fat when we’re dieting

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“Weight loss strategies are often inefficient because the body works like a thermostat and couples the amount of calories we burn to the amount of calories we eat,” says Dr Clémence Blouet from the Metabolic Research Laboratories at University of Cambridge. “When we eat less, our body compensates and burns fewer calories, which makes losing weight harder. We know that the brain must regulate this caloric thermostat, but how it adjusts calorie burning to the amount of food we’ve eaten has been something of a mystery.”

Now, in research published in the open access journal eLife, a team of researchers has identified a new mechanism through which the body adapts to low caloric intake and limits weight loss in mice. Mice share a number of important biological and physiological similarities with humans and so are a useful model for studying how our bodies work.

The researchers tested the role of a group of neurons in a brain region known as the hypothalamus. These ‘agouti-related neuropeptide’ (AGRP) neurons are known for their major role in the regulation of appetite: when activated, they make us eat, but when fully inhibited they can lead to almost complete anorexia. …

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