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!"