Eating sweet food could activate the part of the brain critical for forming memories, prompting the brain to record the meal and control further munching.
New research reveals that the dorsal hippocampus, a brain region crucial for episodic memory, is activated when sweets are consumed, Georgia State University reported. Episodic memory is a memory experienced in a certain place and time. The findings could potentially be used to help people stop overeating.
A team of scientists observed meals sweetened with sucrose or saccharin increased the expression of the synaptic plasticity marker called activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc) in dorsal hippocampal neurons in rats.
"We think that episodic memory can be used to control eating behavior," said Marise Parent, professor in the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State. "We make decisions like 'I probably won't eat now. I had a big breakfast.' We make decisions based on our memory of what and when we ate."
Past research has shown inactivating dorsal hippocampal neurons after a sugary meal during the period during which a memory forms causes rats to eat more in the near future. Studies have also shown disrupting meal memory-making by watching T.V. or being exposed to other distractions makes humans consume more during their next meal. People with amnesia will almost always eat again when presented with a meal, even if they have just eaten.
Understanding how the brain controls meal onset and frequency could provide valuable insight into energy regulation and the cause of obesity. Snacking has been largely linked to obesity, and the habit is on the rise in the U.S. In the future, the researchers hope to determine the effect nutritionally balanced liquid or solid diets containing protein, fat, and carbohydrates has on dorsal hippocampal neurons
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Hippocampus.