To understand how heavy drinking sessions could cause people to overeat, the scientists carried out an experiment on mice. The rodents were injected directly in the abdomen with doses of alcohol over a three-day weekend, mimicking the effect of a large intake of alcohol in a short period of time, commonly known as binge drinking.
The “intoxicated” mice had a significantly increased food intake compared to control mice, particularly on the second day.
The mice appeared to mirror behavior seen in humans. The scientists suggest that this is due to changes in the brain caused by alcohol, which disrupts the action of “AgRP” neurons, located in the hypothalamus, which regulate voracious eating.
Previous studies, not involving alcohol, found that these neurons were activated when mice felt stomach cramps. When the neurons were activated, the mice continued to eat even with full stomachs. Here, the researchers found that when AgRP neurons were blocked before injecting alcohol, the mice no longer ate more than usual. A similar mechanism could be at work when humans drink alcohol, the study suggests.
Specialists warn that this kind of behavior carries various risks and could contribute to obesity in young people, which is on the rise worldwide.
Note that excessive alcohol consumption damages the liver and can lead to other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.