What Causes Overeating? A New Study Says it’s Overeating in the First Place

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Have you been there? You’re just a little hungry at dinner time. Maybe you actually don’t even remember what you had for lunch, if anything. So, even though you’re not famished, you decide you should probably eat something—just a nibble, you say, there's no way overeating is an option now. But then, once you start eating, you suddenly think something like, Wow, I guess I was really hungry, as you pile more food onto your plate and proceed to stuff yourself.

overeating triggers overeating

According to new research (conducted on mice) published in the journal Cell, it’s not an uncommon practice, and in fact, the act of overeating appears to be what actually leads us to eat more over time.

The researchers noted that production of a hormone called uroguanylin decreased in mice who were allowed to overeat. Uroguanylin is responsible for triggering the feeling of fullness or satiety so that we stop overeating.

“It didn’t matter whether the mice were lean and overfed, or obese and overfed,” researcher Dr. Scott Waldman of Thomas Jefferson University told Food Navigator, “urogaunylin production stopped in both groups of animals when they got too many calories.”

In the mice who were continually overfed and then put on a diet, uroguanylin production resumed, keeping the mice from overeating, but only once the calories were reduced for a period of time.

It’s that specific connection between the number of calories and uroguanylin production, rather than whether or not the subject was obese, that the researchers found most eye opening.

“These experiments show that excess calories stop producing uroguanylin,” said Waldman.

“Like in cancer, there are many steps on the way to becoming obese that aren’t easily reversed. The uroguanylin pathway appears to be one of those steps,” Waldman adds, “we don’t know how much of a role it plays."

But what they do know is that keeping uroguanylin levels healthy, could be the key to preventing long-term overeating, which can lead to obesity and other health-related conditions. The researchers are even looking at uroguanylin therapy options to help reverse obesity.

We’re all prone to overeating on occasion, and there’s nothing wrong with stuffing yourself on your birthday or during the holidays. But if you want to avoid overeating daily, it may be best to start with less food than you think you’ve got room for. Otherwise, it looks like your stomach may make the space.

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Woman eating burger image via Shutterstock

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