Scientists who study physiology and other biomedical research fields—including anatomy, biochemistry, pathology and pharmacology—gather every year at the Experimental Biology (EB) meeting to network, collaborate and communicate new research findings. This year’s EB meeting in Orlando, Fla., featured studies ranging from the gut microbiome to heart disease to adolescent health. Read on to learn more about the relationship between our brain’s wiring and our diet.
Vegetarians may choose a plant-based diet based on their personal ethics or for health-related reasons. Eating red meat may raise the risk of heart disease, and studies have shown that choosing a vegetarian lifestyle may also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. People who don’t eat meat or fish, however, tend to have lower levels of creatine, a chemical stored in the brain and muscles that helps build lean muscle. Researchers from Stetson University in Florida compared the effects of creatine supplementation on vegetarians and meat eaters and found that creatine may also help boost brain function in vegetarians.
Do you have a sugar addiction? If you’re female, it could be related to your estrogen levels. A research team from Nara Women’s University in Japan blocked the opioid receptors in mice that took estrogen supplements. Opioid receptors are cells in the brain’s “reward center” that bind to opioid compounds such as drugs or naturally occurring “feel good” hormones. The researchers found that blocking these receptors made the mice eat less sugar, suggesting that the extra sugar cravings caused by estrogen may be managed by the brain’s reward center.
If you’ve ever craved high-fat junk foods after enjoying a few alcoholic beverages, you’re not alone. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine studied mice that were given limited access to alcohol and a high-fat diet, similar to a pattern of binging. They found that limiting the amount of fatty food available made the mice much more interested in drinking alcohol when it was available. The part of the brain that controls binge-eating and -drinking seems to share a circuit, which could explain why these activities often go hand in hand.
Interested in learning about more research presented at the meeting? Read more: