Yo-yo dieting may prompt binge eating under stress
It’s not just putting on weight that alters the brain — taking it off does too, studies suggest. Dieting may change how the brain responses to stress, so that the next time we find ourselves in a bind, or just plain frazzled, we eat more, according to a study published Dec. 1 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
In the study, researchers put a group of mice on a diet so that they lost 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. Then, the mice were allowed to put the weight back on, similar to the way human dieters often see the pounds creep back. When the mice were exposed to stressful situations, such as hearing sounds at nighttime, they ate more food than those who had never been placed on a diet.
The mice also had what are known as epigenetic changes — changes in the way genes are expressed that don’t involve changes in the gene sequences themselves — particularly in genes involved in regulating responses to stress. The researchers said these modifications may have altered the animals’ eating behavior during stress.