The biological processes of the brain may play a role in serious public health issues, including diabetes, obesity, binge eating, and the temptation of high-calorie meals.

The finding came from studies that were unveiled today at Neuroscience 2012, the yearly meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's greatest source of new information regarding neurology and well-being.

While using imaging technology to investigate how neurology contributes to dietary disorders, scientists were able to associate the foods people eat to how and what they think.

All of the experts in each study had a common goal - to identify a new approach to treat diet-related disorders, while hoping to increase people's understanding that obesity and diet impact physical and mental health.

Today's new research presented at the meeting indicated that:
  • An individual's cognitive function is influenced by obesity, meaning that more effort is needed to finish a complex decision-making task.
  • When people skip breakfast, brain images have demonstrated that the pleasure-seeking portion of the brain becomes turned on after looking at images of foods high in calories.
  • Skipping the first meal of the day also caused subjects to eat more food at lunch, which challenges the idea that fasting is a good way to control diet.
  • After an investigation in rats, experts believe it is possible to use the same drugs which help maintain substance abusers clean to change people's binge-eating behavior.
Other recent research revealed that:
  • While there has been an increasing concern that diet-related metabolic disorders, including diabetes, harm the brain, a study indicated that a diet high in sugar impacts the brain's insulin receptors, while undermining spatial learning and memory skills. However, this effect could be somewhat compensated with the intake of omega-3 supplements.
  • Verification from an examination on rats indicated that a compound, which is still being developed to treat people with obesity and compulsive eating disorders, may be able to prevent a certain receptor in the brain from initiating food cravings and eating when activated by "food related cues" (looking at pictures), regardless of whether they are hungry.
Paul Kenny, Ph.D., of The Scripps Research Institute in Florida, press conference moderator, and an expert on addiction and obesity, concluded:

"These are fascinating studies because they show the brain is an often overlooked yet significant organ in an array of dietary disorders. Many of these findings have the potential to lead to new interventions that can help reduce the ranks of the obese, helping those who struggle daily with dietary decisions reassert control over what they eat."

Written by Sarah Glynn