Is your brain telling you to overeat?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sometime around 1989, I worked for a company where the new owner, a very petite woman, began “cleaning house” when she took over by eliminating many of the employees who came with the purchase and bringing in new employees of her own choosing. Not all that unusual, except the employees she fired were all overweight - and the ones she brought in were not. As one of the new employees she brought in, I felt just awful about all these really nice people who were losing their jobs. I felt even worse when I was told, in confidence, by another employee that the new owner did not like overweight people. She felt being overweight showed a lack of self-control and discipline and those were not the kind of people she wanted working for her.

Sadly, I don’t think this attitude is all that uncommon.

There is some new research being done by an international team co-led by the University of Michigan that suggests some people may just be genetically predisposed to overeating. Being overweight, in many cases, may have absolutely nothing to do with self-discipline. As you know, I’m no scientist and find some most all science to be strictly dullsville, but I find this fascinating.

What it boils down to is this: The research team “found six new genes that help explain body mass index and obesity, and all but one of the genes are tied to the brain rather than to metabolic functions, such as fat storage and sugar metabolism.” So the scientists look at these things when they are trying to develop new drugs and determining where in the body they want them to act.

Now here’s the part of the research that might make you wet your pants. SH2B1 (quite the catchy name) was first discovered by U-M researchers studying mice. The researchers created an obese mouse then returned it to its normal weight by turning on the SH2B1 gene in the brain.

Let me repeat that in case you were skimming and missed it: The researchers created an obese mouse then returned it to its normal weight by turning on the SH2B1 gene in the brain. Holy crap. TURN ME ON ALREADY!

Oh, and I’m curious to know if they turned that SH2B1 gene back on by sprinkling Sensa on the tiny little bowls of mouse food. The article wasn’t clear.

I would like to say I’m genetically predisposed to overeating, but I think the truth is that I often lack self-control in that area. When I really work at it, I don’t overeat.

How about you? If you have (or had) a weight problem, do you feel overeating is something you might be “hardwired” to do, or do you honestly feel it’s something you could control if you worked harder?

You can read the whole (short) article here, written by someone who understood what the heck they were talking about.


Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said...

The sad thing is that mouse looks remarkable like our obese hamster LOL

Camevil said...

The saying "my eyes are bigger than my stomach" was my mantra. I ate everything on my plate. Whenever I finished a meal and got up to leave, I usually groaned in discomfort, realizing for the first time that I stuffed myself.

Frankly, once I became aware of concepts such as intuitive eating and portion control, I became more sensitive of how my stomach (and not my brain) was feeling. Things kind of feel into place after that.

I could still go for an occasional SH2B1 tickle party, tho.

the "Pan"lings said...

I say "turn the dang thing on" myself! I at least started making my own meal and eating just that instead of just finishing up the kids...

Thanks for the welcome!

Melissa S. said... over a third of the population suffered a "genetic mutation" that turned off their SH2B1 genes in the past 30 years?

I'm just sayin... :)

Julie said...

Poor mousey in the pic. I'd like to blame my excess weight on somebody or something. But I just put too much food in my pie hole. Then sit around. Not a good combo. But if somebody could turn off a gene that made me want to do that, I'd be the first one in line. Right after I get a doughnut :P

rightonmom said...

Here from sits. Intriguing info. I wonder if some people are just prone to skinniness too. Not me, but others. When I overeat I know it and correct it. Or try to.

Mel said...

Thank you for the comment on my blog!

Overeating is very hard for me. Food is just so good it's hard to stop sometimes.

I am Harriet said...

Yikes. Sometimes I think it's the weather

midlife mommy said...

I think my damned metabolism changed after my daughter was born, and of course being older than dirt doesn't help. I don't do much different than I did before (which includes overeating), and I didn't exercise before either.

Except now the weight doesn't go away -- the same thing happened to my mom. So, I don't think my genes tell me to overeat, I'm just not burning calories as quickly to cover up all my sins. I might be genetically predisposed to be this way in my 40s and after having a baby.

But hey, turn me on too. Can't hurt.

Krist Summer said...

I totally agree that overeating becomes a bad habit like anything else that if you work at it you can break. I also believe that you can get just as used to eating healthy as you can unhealthy.

Brooke said...

i don't over eat, i just eat really, really bad for me things.