Connections between Food, Drink and the Brain: Research from Experimental Biology 2019

EB 2019 Crowd Shot

Credit: American Physiological Society

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.

Smith poster

Michele Skelton, PhD, Kaitlyn Smith, Caroline Weickel and Nathan Monsanto present the poster, “Effect of creatine-monohydrate on cognitive function in subjects who differ in dietary meat consumption” at Experimental Biology 2019. Credit: Erica Roth

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.

Iida poster 2

Kurumi Iida presents her poster, “Involvement of the opioid system in the 17β-estradiol-induced enhancement of sucrose intake in ovariectomized rats” at Experimental Biology 2019.  Credit: Erica Roth

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.

Coker binging release

Caitlin Coker presents her study, “Cross-sensitization to binge alcohol intake following binge intake of palatable diets” at Experimental Biology 2019. Credit: Erica Roth

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:

Sleeping, Breathing and Addiction: Research from Experimental Biology 2019

Surprising Ways to Protect Your Heart: Research from Experimental Biology 2019

Erica Roth

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  1. Pingback: Surprising Ways to Protect Your Heart: Research from Experimental Biology 2019 | I Spy Physiology Blog

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