Dopamine and disruption of biological clock system in Obesity

Naturally in humans, the body prepares itself to consume as much as possible and stores them as fat which gets utilized when one is fasting or hasn’t eaten properly. However, it has been found in previous studies that overeating alone can account for the obesity epidemics. Overeating leading to obesity has been found to be associated with an increase in the rate of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, cancers, and other diseases, such as hypertension.

Positive changes in lifestyle, like by reducing the intake of calories and involving in daily exercise, are considered as effective ways for combating obesity. However, still these steps are ineffective when considered for a long-term goal. Fast foods or easily available palatable foods contribute to maladaptive eating which further leads to obesity and other metabolic disorders. Palatable foods contain much more intense flavors than standard foods, which when consumed send signals to the accumbens nucleus, which triggers the release of dopamine.

Moreover, recently published updates have shown that the regulation of circadian activity of enzymes, hormones and the major metabolic transport systems are controlled by the energy homeostasis. Any disturbance in the circadian rhythms causes metabolic disorders resulting in obesity.

A recent study states that the brain’s two areas, one that produces dopamine and the one with the human biological clock system, influence each other. Also, the high-calorie palatable foods disrupt the normal feeding schedules and hence results in overconsumption.

The study shows that the dopamine signaling in the nervous system directs the circadian rhythms and influences eating of high-energy diets at irregular intervals and between meals. Previous researches also support the fact that mice fed with a high-fat diet at irregular timings stored excess calories as fat with a much more faster approach than the same number of calories when consumed only at regular eating intervals. This ultimately results in obesity and other metabolic disorders like diabetes.

This study was conducted by Ali D. Güler, Professor of Biology at the University of Virginia, with his team. They reported that when the mice were fed with a wild diet i.e., low calories, maintained normal eating behavior and proper weight. However, when the mice were fed with a high-calorie diet (fat-rich diet), they started “snacking” throughout the day and became obese.

Moreover, the “knockout” mice with disrupted dopamine signaling –rejected the rewarding pleasure of the calorie-rich fat diet when presented with high-fat diet throughout the day. They showed a normal eating schedule and thus, maintained their proper weight.

In conclusion, it can be said that, what we eat, when we eat and how much we eat are equally significant. Calories when consumed irregularly, i.e., between meals, become adipose tissue which ultimately becomes the reason for illness.

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