Obesity could be CURED by ‘flicking junk food switch in the brain off’

WHETHER it’s a gorging on a sharing size pack of crisps or enjoying a 30 inch pizza, we all have our own favourites when it comes to junk food.

But for millions of Brits, the insatiable love for salty and fatty snacks borderlines on a dangerous addiction.


Previous studies have suggested that more Brits will be obese than a healthy weight within five yearCredit: PA

However, scientists may have discovered how to turn off our fatty foods cravings – offering hope of new treatments for obesity and binge eating.

By ‘switching off’ a neuron which connects the brain to the gut, experts have managed to stop mice from craving fatty foods.

That’s because it is the gut that drives our desire for foods high in fat — and not necessarily the taste itself — researchers have found.

Lead author, Dr Mengtong Li, of Columbia University, New York, said: “We live in unprecedented times, in which the overconsumption of fats and sugars is causing an epidemic of obesity and metabolic disorders.

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“If we want to control our insatiable desire for fat, science is showing us that the key conduit driving these cravings is a connection between the gut and the brain.”

Previous studies have suggested that more Brits will be obese than a healthy weight within five years.

The NHS estimates that around one in every four adults and around one in every five children in the UK are obese.

Being too fat raises the risk of illnesses including diabetes, heart and liver disease and cancer.

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In experiments, scientists offered mice bottles of water laced with dissolved fats – one made of soybean oil another made of tasty sweet substances that doesn’t affect the gut.

The study, published in the journal Nature, revealed that all the lab rodents preferred the fatty formula – even those genetically modified so they could not taste fat with their tongue.

Co-author, Professor Charles Zuker, said: “Even though the animals could not taste fat, they were nevertheless driven to consume [the fatty water].”

Scans of the mice revealed that the vagus nerve, which links the gut to the brain, lit up whenever the mice ate fat.

When scientists turned off this nerve, the mice stopped craving fat.

Although there have been no similar experiments conducted on humans, Prof Scott Sternson, of California University in San Diego, highlighted the potential for improving human health.

“This exciting study offers insight about the molecules and cells that compel animals to desire fat.

“The capability of researchers to control this desire may eventually lead to treatments that may help combat obesity by reducing consumption of high-calorie fatty foods.”

A previous study revealed that overweight children face a higher risk of dementia in old age.

They found those who were chunkier or unfit between seven and 15 fared worse on brain tests in their forties.

Meanwhile, experts have found that a growing number of children are being treated for type 2 diabetes fuelled by soaring obesity.

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Diabetes UK says nearly 1,000 under-19s were being treated by the NHS for type 2 diabetes in 2020/21.

It is a leap of more than 50 per cent over the past five years, with 621 needing treatment in 2015/16.

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