October 26, 2009

Well, that explains a lot of things.

A study came out recently from UT Southwestern Medical Center. For those of you who've never heard of it, UTSW is one of those research centers that make people who do research for a living go "Oooh" and "Aaaah" when they hear the name. It's also one of those research centers where people apparently get paid grant money to find out things which will serve either to depress you utterly, or boost your willpower.

Dr. Deborah Clegg (who, incidentally, has the coolest glasses I've ever seen) led a team that discovered, long story short, that eating foods high in saturated fatty acids like palmitic acid (found in dairy products and beef, dammit!) actually turns off the chemical reaction in your brain that tells you you're hungry.

This, my friends, is a troubling finding.

What this means, basically, is that if you eat butter on your pancakes on Thursday, your brain will refuse to recognize that you're full, so you'll overeat that buttery pancakey wonderfulness.

“What we’ve shown in this study is that someone’s entire brain chemistry can change in a very short period of time. Our findings suggest that when you eat something high in fat, your brain gets ‘hit’ with the fatty acids, and you become resistant to insulin and leptin,” Dr. Clegg said. “Since you’re not being told by the brain to stop eating, you overeat.”

Further, your brain doesn't reset itself automatically after a load of pancakes with palmitic acids; instead, it takes a while for it to return to its normal state of Weight Watchering and bean-munching.

Dr. Clegg said that in the animals, the effect lasts about three days, potentially explaining why many people who splurge on Friday or Saturday say they’re hungrier than normal on Monday.

What does this mean for those of us who are either trying to lose weight, lower our collective cholesterols, or generally be more healthy?

It means we need to be aware of--though not afraid of--the effect that things like creamy, marvelous butter, stinky cheeses, real heavy cream, and lean cuts of gorgeous, well-grilled beef might have on our brains. Portion control would obviously be the watchword here.

Dr. Clegg said that even though the findings are in animals, they reinforce the common dietary recommendation that individuals limit their saturated fat intake. “It causes you to eat more,” she said. Dr. Clegg then lowered her head to her desk, sobbing, "No more Ben & Jerry's! No more delicious cereal cream on my Corn Snappers in the morning! I've got to eat that hideous fake butter spread! How could you do this to me, research team? How *could* you? Drat those stupid mice!"


  1. Well, I am not a high fat eating person. I try to stick to the healthy fats in the 25-30% of my calories.

    Interesting because I am reading a book right now to be reviewed on my blog in November about high protein & that saturated fat is OK & even your friend!!!! We shall see about that.. more to come after I finish it & review it next month!

  2. Oh, my. I'm weirder than I thought. When I eat cheese ( good old cow dairy cheese) I feel fuller and keep the feeling longer.

  3. Hmmm. I would say my supper last night was fairly high in saturated fat and I couldn't finish my breakfast this morning because I ate half and then felt too full. So not sure what I think of this.

  4. I wonder how this new research works with the commonly held notion that protein keeps you full longer than simple carbs.

    Also, I remember a study a few months ago where researchers found that the "I'm Full" switch in the brains of obese people malfunctioned and led to overeating. This is another interesting take!

  5. Huh, very interesting. Love the last paragraph, lol!

  6. Hmmm whatever happened to the notion that protein/fat satiets hunger. *sigh*

  7. Yeah I try to watch my sat fat intake but I don't find it makes me over eat or make me hungrier after I eat it. I like reading results of studies but then I compare it to what I experience...if it doesn't match up with how my body works I just keep going the way that works for me.

    I think everyone's body is different and we each have to find what applies to us individually. Some of the data out there fits some people but not everyone. So I say bring on the steak and stinky cheese for me! LOL

  8. I've recently become aware of a society that works out and eats "primal."
    Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint states that carbohydrates (grains, refined sugar, processed dairy like skim milk and high-sugar yogurts) are the cause of "always being hungry" because your body burns through these carbs so quickly and turns it into sugar in the bloodstream. It also states that fats and proteins are what cause you to be satiated because they take so long to burn and don't cause the rush of sugar-then-insulin that carbs do.
    And the reason we keep eating? Maybe it's the aspartame in the yogurt or the high fructose corn syrup in that ice cream that has been proven to mess with ghrelin and everything else that controls hunger.
    I'm also not saying carbs are bad, but when all we eat are grains three times a day, on top of fruit juices, fruits and vegetables, all of which cause an insulin spike due to whatever glycemic load they have... Well, isn't our perpetual hunger explained in that?

  9. I'm skeptical, since my personal experience directly contradicts this.

    I did the low-fat, no-fat during the latter half of the 80s and all through the 90s, white-knuckling my hunger. It was only after adding fats back into my diet that I found it a snap to control my calorie intake. Granted, my fats come from cheese, yogurt and nuts, not beef, but the dairy fat is saturated, and I put butter in my homemade bread.

    Maybe the problem is that I'm not a mouse?

    Seriously, though, I wonder what kind of animals she used. Mice are predominantly vegetarian, and rabbits are completely so. A study of how animal fats in the diet affect a vegetarian animal would probably not have a direct carry-over to omnivores.

  10. You know, this is counterintuitive for me. Just doesn't work. I had (nitrate free) bacon with breakfast, which is admittedly not beef or dairy but it's certainly saturated fat. It will be hours until I'm hungry. I'm afraid this just doesn't jive with my experience.

  11. I'm not buying it. I've lately been eating greens and turnips with a little butter (tsp) for breakfast with eggs and feta cheese. It's very filling and I don't get hungry for a long time after.

  12. Cool!
    I always wondered why the more crappy food I ate, themore crappy food I could eat, but when I ate healthy low fat food I was satisfies with less.
    This is just another thing to add to my list of why I need to eat healthier.


  13. This is really interesting!

    If I eat quote-unquote healthy fats, like nuts or olive oil, I get full really fast and stay that way for hours. I'm also satisfied with very little of them.

    However: if you put beef, cheese, or butter in front of me, I am the Monch Monster. I nom and nom on that stuff until I'm so full I'm actually feeling queasy.

    Which is why beef and butter are limited to once a week, and why I use lowfat cheese very sparingly. They're binge foods for me, and I could never figure out why.

    Interesting, isn't it, how our bodies are all different, even though we share mostly the same DNA?

  14. Loved that last paragraph!

    This is very interesting, and goes along with my "crap begets crap" theory. I always find it very hard to get back to healthy eating after indulging a bit on high-fat treats...

  15. I know we should all basically be made the same, but it sure seems like there are other factors to take into consideration. Biological makeup is a huge part, but does environment/history mean anything? We obviously don't all respond the same way for a reason. Very interesting.

    Won't change the way I eat though, moderation moderation moderation. :)

  16. Makes total sense! I've often felt that on Mondays and after vacations, I'm reaching for food more than usual.

  17. So, get rid of everything yummy? Next you're going to say frenchy fries and ho ho's are bad ;) Seriously though, it's so not even right that they're finding this!! But, I thought it was carbs that were "bad". I guess we need to be veggies only.

  18. I have to go with some of the other readers: I'm not buying it.

    The European culture, especially France where my husband is from, thrives on butter and cream and cheese and have stayed slender. But now that processed junk food and fast food has entered their market, also, they are becoming fatter. (I didn't feel so out-of-place when I visited France last summer). It's gotta be something else than simply dairy fat.

  19. Well, that explains a lot of things. It does highlight that you should be watching what you eat (and how much0 regardless of if you feel hungry or not.

  20. I think I'm a touch confused.

    If eating those foods, as the post says, turns off the reaction that tells you you're hungry ...

    Then, you're going to feel more full when you eat those foods, right?

    (Also, I'm with Gail. I think the fake crap that agribusiness companies have persuaded our government to continue to permit in American food have more to do with Americans being statistically more overweight, generally, than Europeans, Asians, and Africans. Last I heard, the EUC and Japan had banned a lot of genetically modified foods, as well as some preservatives, that we still permit over here. I don't think that correlation is accidental.)

  21. I'm with you, littlem. It says "eating foods high in saturated fatty acids .... actually turns off the chemical reaction in your brain that tells you you're hungry" which would mean 'eat them, feel less hungry'. Maybe there's a typo in there?

  22. This hasn't been my experience. Non-fat usually means I'm still hungry, or hungry very soon. I'm getting less afraid of saturated fat as I lose my extra weight, I can eat small portions and be content with it.

    I did hear this somewhere else, but not so sure that us and mice have similar digestive systems.

  23. Of course I had to click the link just to see her glasses (agreeance on the coolness, btw) - now to go back and actually READ the article, lol!


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