Eating an unhealthy, high carb and high fat diet does not only impact physical health—it also changes the part of the brain that controls the metabolism, a study in mice has revealed.
Glial cells—which make up more than half of the central nervous system and surround and support neurons—are now thought to be vital in processes linked to body weight and obesity.
To find out more about how diet affects the brain, researchers gave rodents diets high in fat and carbohydrates, while others were fed their regular mouse chow to act as a control.
Research has previously linked a high fat diet to inflammation of the hypothalamus—a part of the brain partly in charge of the metabolism—in mice after three days.
This diet is thought to activate a type of glial called microglial cells, which clear away damaged neurons and infections in the central nervous system, as well as regulating inflammation.
In their paper published in the journal Cell Metabolism, the authors showed the high fat diet seemed to trigger changes in cell powerhouses—or mitochondria—of microglial cells, causing them to spring into action.
Building on this finding, the team was able to prevent weight gain in mice on the high fat diet by removing the UCP2 protein from the microglia.