Dieting triggers a cannibalism response in the brain cells that induce hunger, causing them to start eating parts of themselves.
This new research by scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York thereby explains why very few people can stick to a strict diet regime.
In the journal Cell Metabolism, the researchers explains how the body responds to starvation by producing fatty acids which, in turn, ramps up the hunger response in the brain increasing our impulse to eat.
Experiments conducted on mice found that by blocking this mechanism of autophagy or self-cannibalization, it was possible to prevent the hunger levels from rising.
"A pathway that is really important for every cell to turn over components in a kind of housekeeping process is also required to regulate appetite. Treatments aimed at the pathway might make you less hungry and burn more fat, a good way to maintain energy balance in a world where calories are cheap and plentiful," The Telegraph UK quoted Dr Rajat Singh, the lead researcher stating.
The study mentions that the neurons involved in the process are present in the brain hypothalamus that is responsible for the regulation of food intake and energy balance. Starvation causes these neurons to start the process of autophagy, leading to the generation of certain free fatty acids. It is these acids that increase the levels of a hunger-signaling peptide called AgRP.
Regulation or blockage of this process can thus be an effective intervention to control conditions like obesity and metabolic syndrome.