The Role Of The Brain In Regulating Eating Habits
The Brain And Hunger
Early human beings were hunters and gatherers, they started out as meat eaters and followed it several thousand years later by practicing cultivation. Hence, since the beginning of civilization, food has remained a basic need, but hunger is needed to think about eating and a feeling of satiety directs one to stop eating. Thus, the brain plays an important role in eating, as both the hunger as well as satiety centres are located in a part of brain called the hypothalamus. Therefore, brain disorders can result in either overeating or severe loss of appetite.
Difference Between Hunger And Craving
The brain plays an important role in another eating behaviour which is the craving for food. Craving is different from hunger. Hunger is physiological (normal) and occurs in everyone. Any food would suffice to satisfy hunger. On the other hand, craving is most often not normal and can occur even if one is full. People may crave for various foods and it differs between sexes and different geographical regions.
The Effects Of Cravings
Craving for certain foods is more common in women than in men. Parts of the brain such as the hippocampus, insula and caudate nucleus are responsible for food cravings (same areas are also involved in drug addiction and are activated during sex too).
When one eats the food he/she has craved for, opioids are released in the brain, causing emotional satisfaction and mild euphoria. This ‘reward behaviour’ reinforces food craving behaviour. Most often the food one craves for are rich in fats and calories and giving into this craving can result in weight gain, upsetting weight loss regimens.
Another food craving problem is pica. In this disorder, people crave for non-food items, such as ice, dirt, clay, paint chips, etc. Pica disorder is more common in children and women and is harmful. Thus, it needs immediate medical attention.
Proper Food Timings And Bodily Functions
Good brain functioning requires nutritious foods at proper timings and the most important among them is breakfast. Breakfast is known to improve alertness, concentration and memory. Children who have regular breakfast are better learners. Also, the delay in having meals at the proper time results in the brain getting lower glucose and this can happen after four- six hours from the last meal consumed. Low blood sugar and brain sugar levels result in tiredness, fatigue, impaired alertness, concentration and memory. Therefore, one needs to have meals at the proper time.
Not only the gut, but the brain too plays an important role in regulating eating behaviour. Consequently, brain disorders may lead to various eating disorders.