A Moment on the Lips, Three Days on the Brain

According to new research findings from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, fat from food travels to your brain before it settles on your hips. Once fat molecules reach your brain, they start a chain reaction throughout your body that actually makes you eat more at one sitting.

Researchers discovered that when you eat fatty foods, the fat molecules head straight to your brain, where they send a message throughout the rest of your body to ignore the hormones leptin and insulin. What exactly do these hormones do?

Leptin and insulin are both appetite-suppressing hormones, which your brain releases. Appetite is different from physical hunger. Your appetite induces cravings or desires for particular foods; whereas hunger means your stomach is empty.

Appetite occurs in the brain, hunger occurs in the stomach.

Certain foods change brain chemistry in a similar manner to the way drugs and/or alcohol alters brain chemistry. Alcohol produces a depressant effect and drugs may act as a stimulant or sedative, depending on the type. Caffeine acts as a stimulant, as does sugar.

Both produce an initial “high” which is followed by a “crash” and coming down. Fat doe not produce the stimulant or depressive effect, but rather an increase in appetite. Furthermore, the University of Texas researchers found that the type of fat made a difference for leptin and insulin suppression.

Palmitic acid, which is a type of saturated fat, proved to be the most effective in not only suppressing leptin and insulin, but also in making your body resistant to those hormones for up to three days after consuming this particular fatty acid.

This means if you eat a meal or snack high in palmitic acid on Monday morning for breakfast, you will be more likely to overeat until Wednesday, three days later. It creates a vicious cycle. You consume palmitic acid, which causes an increase in appetite. The increase in appetite causes you to overeat for up to three days.

Before the end of the third day, you consume more palmitic acid and the entire cycle begins again. Foods, such as beef, milk, cheese, and butter contain the largest amounts of palmitic acid.

Other types of fatty acids, including oleic acid, which is a type of unsaturated fat, do not produce the same effect. In fact, oleic acid actually had the reverse effect. People ate less after consuming a meal or snack high in oleic acid. Olive and grape seed oils are particularly high in this type of fatty acid.

Although oleic acid produced the greatest appetite reduction, other unsaturated fats had similar results. Other types of unsaturated fat include sunflower, safflower, vegetable, canola, sesame, and peanut oils.

Typically, our bodies are programmed to tell us when we are full and/or hungry. It is essential to our survival. Think about it, if a person never experienced hunger pains, he or she may never eat. On the other hand, if a person never experiences a feeling of “fullness,” he or she may never stop eating.

This study shows that the type of fat you consume plays a huge role in the amount of food you crave or desire, which leads to overeating and weight gain.


  1. Medical News Today
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. mypyramid.gov
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