Scientists are a step closer to understanding the biological triggers that regulate our appetite, according to a press release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Undertaken by researchers at National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), with funding from NIH, the project showed that the denial of specific nutritional components can boost desire for them later.
The testing wasn’t performed on humans, however; it featured the fruit fly.
“Flies have been a great model system for brain research so we can learn a lot about how our own brain circuits work by peeking inside the heads of flies,” Janet He, NINDS program director, said in a press release. “A better understanding of the basic mechanisms that regulate the consumption of different nutrients may help to provide clues to addressing the obesity epidemic.”
The experiment found fruit flies placed on a strict, no-yeast diet for seven days ate more of the protein after ending the restricted diet, shunning sugar, one of the insect's favorite foods. The findings support the idea that nutritional deficiency may spur hunger for specific food, even in humans.
“Adult flies usually have a sweet tooth, but when they are starved of protein, the brain makes it a priority to find this nutrient,” research team leader Mark Wu of Johns Hopkins University said. “Once they finally get some protein, the blockade on sugar feeding lifts but the flies still continue to be interested in eating protein.”
The next step for the research team is to find a connection between food deprivation and hunger in mammals, the release said.