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Obesity and Brain Function: How Does the Brain Regulate Weight?

Abnormal hunger and slow metabolism have long been considered reasons why people become overweight or obese. However, through ongoing studies, researchers have discovered that the problem is much more complex than doctors and Sacramento elder care providers originally thought. One of the latest research projects performed by scientists from the Scripps Research Institute suggests that neuron communication plays a major role in our metabolism. 

The experiments involved studying the Caenorhabditis elegans (roundworm) that uses environmental cues to determine when food sources are scarce, which forces the creature to rely on burning fat stores. Much like the roundworm, when humans are deprived of food, the body begins burning fat. By studying the roundworm, researchers discovered that chemical signals transmitted between neurons that regulate metabolism might not be connected with the need to eat. 

Scientists mapped and differentiated the various genes of the roundworm. They learned that two genes in particular were linked to fat metabolism. One of the genes was also directly related to sensing environmental oxygen levels. Using fluorescent sensing codes, the group discovered that fat was stored or consumed based on activity between neurons when exposed to varying levels of oxygen. 

The worms eat oxygen-consuming bacteria, which means that where the colonies exist, oxygen levels are lower. The oxygen reduction alerts the worms that there is a food source nearby. On the other hand, when oxygen levels were normal or elevated, the metabolism of the worms realized that food was not available and the fat burning began. As oxygen levels began dropping, fat burning slowed in anticipation of an external food source. Additionally, when fat stores neared depletion, the neurons seemed to slow the fat-burning process. 

While scientists theorize that overweight or obese people have sensory abnormalities that contribute to weight problems, they have not fully understood the reason. While oxygen sensing may not translate to human metabolism, the research project leaves scientists with a better understanding of how communication occurs between the brain and other organ systems. For further studies, the group plans on identifying a hormone that may be responsible for this communication.

While scientists work to discover the relationship between brain function and weight gain, seniors can still manage their weight with help from Home Care Assistance of Sacramento. We provide flexible live-in and hourly Sacramento home care that promotes senior health and wellbeing by helping them maintain a nutritious diet and regular exercise. Give your loved one the tools he or she needs to enjoy the golden years. Call us today at 916.706.0169 and schedule a no-obligation consultation.