Overeating: the Brain-Stomach Connection

January 27th, 2011 by Dr. Keith Nemec

Scientists from Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York have identified brain-stomach connections that motivate the desire to over indulge in food.

Specifically, the research suggests an important role for the hippocampus — the part of the brain associated with motivation, emotion, and memory formation — in controlling “emotional eating.”

“This study opens new territory in understanding how the body and brain connect to each other, and how this connection is tied to obesity,” said Dr. Gene-Jack Wang in a Brookhaven-issued statement accompanying the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We were able to simulate the process that takes place when the stomach is full and for the first time we could see the pathway from the stomach to the brain that turns ‘off’ the brain’s desire to continue eating,” Wang explained.

To look at how the human brain responds to “fullness” cues, the scientists implanted a gastric stimulator in seven obese individuals for one to two years. The investigational device provides low levels of electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve, causing the stomach to expand and send “fullness” messages to the brain. The device has been shown to curb the desire to eat.

The subjects underwent brain scans with the stomach stimulator in the on and off mode. Prior to the scans, the volunteers were injected with a radioactive molecule that would light up on the scan so the researchers could track brain metabolism.

“We found that implantable gastric stimulators induced significant changes in metabolism in brain regions associated with controlling emotions, effectively shutting down these obese subjects’ desire to eat,” said Wang.

The changes were most pronounced in the hippocampus, where metabolism was 18-percent higher with the stomach stimulator turned on.
The stomach stimulator also sent messages of fullness to brain circuits in the frontal cortex and striatum, brain regions linked to craving and desire for drugs in addicts.

With the gastric stimulator on, the subjects self-reported “emotional eating” scores were 21-percent lower than when the stimulator was off.

“This provides further evidence of the connection between the hippocampus, the emotions, and the desire to eat, and gives us new insight into the mechanisms by which obese people use food to soothe their emotions,” Wang said. “This new pathway should be explored in further studies to determine if there are any implications for treating or preventing obesity.”
– Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Dr. Keith and Laurie Nemec’s comments on over eating, the brain stomach connection.
Interesting in this study was the body, mind or body brain connection. What this study showed was when they implanted gastric stimulators in the stomach to make the stomach stretch as if it were full, this kicked in the called the hippocampus which is associated with motivation and emotions and memory formation. So a very interesting tie into emotional eating could be a connection from the body to the mind and emotions and also the other pathway which is from the mind emotions into the body. Also when the stomach stimulator was used it also affected the frontal cortex and striatum areas of the brain, which are linked to craving and desire for drugs in addicts. So when the gastric stimulator was on the emotional eaters, there score was 21% lower than when it was off. The study also shows that this is possibly one of the mechanisms why obese people use food to soothe their emotions. If they keep eating and the stomach stretches and it stimulates the areas of the hippocampus in the brain that soothe those emotions, or work with emotions, this pathway might be explored in other ways.

Now when we really look at this, this is the technical side, the scientific side but really when we look at this part of the brain, the hippocampus, as it said, part of it function is involved with motivation and emotions. Now we have to remember that emotions are a byproduct of mind thoughts. So, the mind patterns or the mental thoughts that we think will produce the emotions. So, one of the biggest reasons people do overeat or emotionally eat is because of the lack of pleasure in their life. Their mind sends the message that I am not happy; I’m not having anything pleasurable, so I need a reward.   So they eat for the reward. And it’s not just eating anything for fullness; they eat things that have been changed by man. They eat the refined sugars, the starches; the things that have been changed that stimulate the body in a negative way. Stimulate the flesh filled mind. So it is important to understand that we do have a choice of living in the flesh or living in the Spirit. If we fix our mind on the world and the world system, it is a system ruled by the flesh and it will feed the flesh. If we live and walk in the Spirit, walk in what God has put in our heart, then we are not going to seek pleasure from the world, from the food, our pleasure is in Him. In our relationship with Him, in our oneness with Him, sitting at His feet each and every moment receiving His love, joy and peace into our hearts. So when people are not receiving from Him, then they will seek to receive from another stimulus, and the number one stimulus that they will reach for is food because it is the greatest addiction and bondage in all of the world. So, to sum up this study, we can break food addictions. We can break obesity. We can break overweight, we can break it all. This will not be accomplished by just eating more to stimulate our stomach. It’s walking in the Spirit living a life from our heart, what God has put in the purpose and the design and plan that He has put in our heart and sitting at His feet and keeping our eyes fixed on Him not the world system. Keeping our eyes fixed on the truth and not the lie and receiving all of our pleasure in life from our relationship, our covenant marriage with Him instead of a relationship a covenant marriage with the world system. It’s your choice, are your going to eat food of the world system, which is refined processed foods, or the food that God made, which is the vegetables, the sprouts, the seeds, the nuts, the foods that have been around as long as mankind has been around, because God created the food. It’s interesting to note that you don’t get addicted to green vegetables. You don’t get addicted to things that God has made the food that He has made. Your addiction comes when you eat the food that has been changed by man, that has been changed by flesh filled, world filled, ego filled minds of men. So again, you have the choice to choose life or death, blessing or curses, to choose to eat the food that God designed you to eat, or the world system designed you to eat. The choice is up to you. To get a greater revelation of these truths you need to learn how to walk in the 7 Basic Steps to Total Health each and every day of your life.

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