More calories translate to weight gain, obesity, and other health issues over time. A new study adds that it is not only the number of calories but also when you eat, which can affect your overall health.
The animal study used mice to simulate the round-the-clock availability of a high-fat diet. It demonstrated that the dopamine-producing pleasure center of the brain and the physiological rhythms of the body are connected. Foods that are consumed for pleasure, which are usually high in calories, affect pre-established feeding schedules, thus leading to overeating.
The study observed that the group of mice that had disrupted dopamine signaling did not seek pleasure-inducing foods, even when it was available all the time. They ate as per the normal eating schedule and maintained a healthy weight.
“This lights-on-all-the-time, eat-at-any-time lifestyle recasts eating patterns and affects how the body utilizes energy,” said Ali Güler, a professor of biology at the University of Virginia and one of the authors of this study. “It alters metabolism – as our study shows – and leads to obesity, which causes disease. We’re learning that when we eat is just as important as how much we eat. A calorie is not just a calorie. Calories consumed between meals or at odd hours become stored as fat, and that is the recipe for poor health.”
The results of the study have been published in the Current Biology journal.