Genes are the reason for middle aged spread

September 1, 2008

Staying with the theme of unwanted weight, it seems almost inevitable, middle aged spread is something we associate with getting older and we either accept it or take action to prevent it. Often thought of as being a result of being less active, it now seems that it is a result of the key appetite control cells in the human brain degenerating over time. This causes increased hunger and the potential for putting on weight, but read on and see how you can slow down this process.

Dr Zane Andrews, a neuroendocrinologist with Monash University’s Department of Physiology in Australia, has published his research in Nature magazine which indicates that what you eat has a great effect on how much the cells decay. He found that appetite-suppressing cells are attacked by free radicals after eating, and that the degeneration is more significant following meals rich in carbohydrates and sugars. So a Big Mac with large fries and a coke – for example – is one of the worst offenders as a meal loaded with carbohydrates and sugars attacks the appetite suppressing cells, which in turn creates a cellular imbalance between our need to eat and the message to the brain to stop eating.

People in the age group of 25 to 50 are most at risk because the neurons that tell people in the crucial age range not to over-eat are being killed-off. When the stomach is empty, it triggers the ghrelin hormone that notifies the brain that we are hungry. When we are full, a set of neurons known as POMC’s (which are produced in the hypothalamus) kick in. However, free radicals created naturally in the body attack the POMC neurons and this process causes them to degenerate overt time, and this in turn affects our judgement about when our hunger is satisfied.

Dr Andrews believes that the reduction in the appetite-suppressing cells could be one explanation for the complex condition of adult-onset obesity. Our diets have changed radically over the last 30 years as we now do consume far more sugars and complex carbohydrates than ever before and this has placed so much strain on our bodies that it’s leading to premature cell deterioration. The answer? Cut down on carbohydrates and sugars as much as you can, otherwise that slice of ‘Death by Chocolate’ cake might prove all too apt when applied to your waistline.


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