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Short-term overeating may alter body shape

Wednesday August 25th, 2010

A short period of binge eating can cause long-term changes to body shape - piling on fat in unwanted places, researchers warned last night.

Dr Asa Ernersson and colleagues at Linkoping University, Sweden, explain that body weight in college students has previously been found to increase during holidays, by about 0.37 to 0.5kg, and is often present a year later.

They looked at the effects of rapid weight gain in 18 normal weight young people, mostly medical students. For four weeks, energy intake was raised to an average of 5,753 kcals per day, using fast food, and physical activity limited to 5,000 steps per day.

Body weight increased by an average of 6.4kg. Although participants lost about 4.7kg in the following six months, by a year they remained about 1.5kg heavier than before the study. Body composition measurements showed a 1.4kg greater fat mass after a year.

In the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, the researchers write: "The change of fat mass was larger than expected, and there was no increase of body weight in controls. This raises the issue whether there is a long term effect to increase fat mass of a short period of hyper-alimentation."

Dr Ernersson agrees that a short period of excessive eating and lack of exercise "can potentially change an individual's physiology, causing it to be harder to lose and keep off weight".

In a separate study involving rats, Dr Jose Barreto Carvalheira of Campinas University in Brazil, has found that exercise can restore the sensitivity of neurons involved in satiety.

His team report in the journal PLoS Biology that this effect on hypothalamic neurons of the brain may contribute to reduced food intake and consequent weight loss.

Ernersson, A. et al. Long-term increase of fat mass after a four week intervention with fast food based hyper-alimentation and limitation of physical activity. Nutrition & Metabolism (in press).

Ropelle, E. R. et al. IL-6 and IL-10 Anti-Inflammatory Activity Links Exercise to Hypothalamic Insulin and Leptin Sensitivity through IKKb and ER Stress Inhibition. PLoS Biology, 8(8): e1000465.

Tags: Diet & Food | Europe

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