"I Eat Because I'm Depressed And I'm Depressed Because I Eat"

May 28, 2012

Have you ever watched the movie “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”? If not, you should because it’s hilarious.
During movie, one of the villains named “Fat Bastard”, after having an emotional breakdown, tearfully confesses “I eat because I'm unhappy, and I'm unhappy because I eat. It's a vicious cycle. Now if you'll excuse me, there's someone I need to get in touch with and forgive: myself,"
This is one of the most famous quotes of the Austin Powers franchise and, today scientists affiliated with the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center and the university’s Faculty of Medicine, have found out, with a sophisticated neuroscience research, that there is actual truth behind that quote.

"In addition to causing obesity, rich foods can actually cause chemical reactions in the brain in a similar way to illicit drugs, ultimately leading to depression as the 'come-downs' take their toll," explained lead researcher, Dr. Stephanie Fulton. As is the case with drug addicts, a vicious cycle sets in where "food-highs" are used as a way to combat depression.
"Data shows that obesity is associated with increased risk of developing depression, but we have very little understanding of the neural mechanisms and brain reward patterns that link the two," Fulton said. "We are demonstrating for the first time that the chronic consumption of palatable, high-fat diets has pro-depressive effects."
A molecule in the brain known as dopamine enables the brain to rewards us with good feelings, encouraging us to learn certain kinds of behaviour. This chemical is the same in humans as it is in mice and other animals.
The research team feed mice different kinds of food and monitored how the diet affects the way the animals behave.
Mice that have been fed a higher-fat diet exhibit signs of being anxious, such as an avoidance of open areas, and of being depressed, such as making less of an effort to escape when trapped. Moreover, their brains have been physically altered by their experiences.
The study has been published in the current issue if the International Journal of Obesity, there is also a video that has been released on the Journal of Visualised Experiments (JoVE). It’s pretty interesting if you have 10 minutes free to watch it, and can be found at this link.
"Although popular culture jokes about these illnesses and even mocks the people who are suffering, obesity is a serious and major public health issue that already affects hundreds of millions of people. As a society, we must avoid creating stigma and discriminating against obese and depressed people," Fulton said.
"With regards to research, it is urgent that we identify the molecules and neural pathways involved in obesity and obesity-related illnesses. My colleagues and I are committed to identifying the brain circuitry involved in these diseases and to improving the tools available to researchers working in the same field."

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Universite de Montreal, via EurekaAlert!.


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