When researchers injected mice with alcohol, it sparked activity in specific brain neurons that drive food intake, called AgRP.
Wasted mice help you understand why you need that 4 a.m. double cheeseburger
If you’re calling for another round, there’s a reason you may be more likely to grab the appetizer menu while you’re at it. According to a new study published in Nature, booze may put your brain in starvation mode. And that sends out signals boosting hunger and appetite, even if you’re full.
When researchers injected mice with alcohol, it sparked activity in specific brain neurons that drive food intake, called agouti-related peptides, or AgRP. As a result, the mice tended to overeat, says lead researcher Denis Burdakov, D.Phil, of the Francis Crick Institute.
But when the researchers purposefully blocked the AgRP cells, the animals no longer ate more after alcohol injections. That means there’s a strong possibility that alcohol was triggering the increased activity in those brain regions.
While it’s impossible to say whether the effects would be the same for humans without studying it on humans, it’s possible that the same mechanism may be at play, since humans do have AgRP neurons as well, says Burdakov.
It’s not really clear why alcohol kicks off an AgRP storm, sparking the desire to overeat. One theory is that it’s an evolutionary adaptation that can limit the toxic effects of too much alcohol.
“Alcohol-induced food appetite would drive someone away from alcohol,” says Burdakov. “Or maybe food makes it easier for the body to process alcohol.”
He believes that his tipsy-and-hungry mice offer some interesting directions for future research, particularly when it comes to what causes the brain to switch toward overeating. As for now, just realize that your body might be priming you to overeat when you’re boozing—so try to eat a filling meal before you head out.