Researcher: Why does alcohol cause cravings?

Scientists are studying the effects of alcohol consumption on our eating behavior
Many people have experienced this situation at least once in their lives. You drink a little too much alcohol at a party and it doesn't take long for you to develop a real craving. So we usually eat far too much after drinking alcohol beforehand. But what is the reason for this hunger for alcohol?

Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute in London found that alcohol consumption activates a specific set of so-called hypothalamic neurons. These then seem to trigger the increased urge for food. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Nature Communications".

What is the biological reason for cravings after drinking alcohol?
Alcohol consumption often leads to increased hunger. The consequence of this is usually that the drinker consumes tons of fast food or other foods. This in turn often leads to stomach pain the next morning. Experts were now looking for a biological reason for the effect.

Neurological connection seems to trigger the problem
Most people believe in a simple explanation for the craving that arises. This is: Drunks simply lack self-control. In fact, the researchers found in their study that a neurological connection could be responsible for the problem. Specific brain cells or neurons usually stimulate the urge to eat some food. Tests on mice showed that laboratory mice ingested large amounts of food when they were given alcohol, the experts explain.

Alcohol activates neurons, which are also activated by hunger
The scientists discovered that alcohol activates a specific set of hypothalamic neurons. These were related to feeding behavior, the authors say. The neurons can be activated by both alcohol and hunger. The alcohol affects a group of nerve cells in the brain. These are in the area of ​​the brain that is responsible for regulating food intake, the researchers explain.

Alcohol leads to significantly higher food intake in mice
So-called agrp neurons are cells in the brain that promote hunger. Alcohol modulates the action of these neurons to increase food intake. In the experiment, the mice were exposed to alcohol for three days. The amount consumed corresponded to approximately 18 standard drinks. Due to the alcohol intake, the mice ingested significantly more food than the fasted mice from the control group, the doctors add.

Blocking neurons can suppress alcohol-induced food intake
The researchers found that blocking neuron activity in some mice suppressed alcohol-induced overeating. Alcohol itself already contains a fairly large amount of calories, about seven kilocalories per gram, the experts say. In addition, alcohol cannot be stored by the body. The only way to process the alcohol is to metabolize it for energy. As a result, everything that people eat at the same time with the alcohol or shortly afterwards is preferably stored by the body.

Do neurons also influence the choice of food?
It is quite possible that the activation of the neurons could also distort the choice of food itself, the researchers say. Perhaps this could explain why we prefer drunk greasy food.

Further studies with human subjects are urgently needed
The results found in the mice are not directly applicable to humans. For this reason, further studies in humans are necessary to determine the exact effects on the human body, the doctors explain. For example, in the experiment, the mice were injected with alcohol and not consumed. The stress that occurs could have an impact on the brain and thus have influenced the results of the study.

Many people would benefit from suppressing cravings
The results of a study in humans could help suppress alcohol cravings in the future and avoid waking up with guilt after a celebration the next morning because we consumed far too many unhealthy foods the previous night. (as)

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