In high school, I used to work with racehorses over the summer. And by that, I mean cleaning out stalls from 5 AM to noon, seven days a week, for about $5 an hour.
After each shift, I would stop by McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) and order three – yes, three – double cheeseburgers off the dollar menu. I’d pay my $3.21, head home and eat all of them within 10 minutes.
After a bit of math, I realized that by the end of each summer, I had consumed 360 beef patties. Seriously.
That obscene amount of fast food – even combined with a labor-intensive job at the racetrack – should have resulted in at least a few extra inches around my waistline. Thanks to a ridiculously high metabolism, though, I was able to maintain my svelte figure.
Sadly, my natural metabolism has since slowed to the rate of an elderly man with a bad hip.
But I might still have a few guilt-free fast food bingeing days ahead of me…
As long as this research out of UC Irvine makes its way to the real world, that is.
Why “Once You Pop, You Just Can’t Stop” is Accurate
The research revolves around a chemical produced by the brain called “endocannabinoids,” which is molecularly similar to active ingredients found in marijuana.
Previous research by the University of California showed that this chemical plays an important role in our tendency to overeat fatty foods. Basically, when the body ingests foods with high-fat content, it triggers the release of endocannabinoids, which screw around with your metabolism and, in turn, boost your appetite.
So don’t feel bad if eating one french fry makes you want to shovel more in your face. It’s just science.
Still fretting? No need.
New research from the institution suggests that in the future, we’ll be able to continue chowing down on greasy foods without regret. Willpower be damned!
Stay Healthy, No Matter How Many Cheeseburgers You Eat
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Since the previous study, scientists have discovered the specific endocannabinoid that’s responsible for these changes in metabolism, called 2-AG.
As Daniele Piomelli, a professor at the University of California, says:
“We’d known that endocannabinoids play a critical role in cell energy regulation, but this is the first time we found a target where this occurs.”
With this knowledge, Piomelli altered the brain cells in mice in order to minimize the production of 2-AG to see how it would affect their health compared to unmodified mice.
The results, published this week in Cell Metabolism, showed that depressing the levels of 2-AG sent the mice into a hyper-metabolic state. This allowed them to burn through calories at a rapid clip.
Essentially, it turned them into tiny fat-melting machines. Piomelli says:
“We discovered that these mice were resistant to obesity because they burned fat calories much more efficiently than normal mice do.”
As a result, LiveScience says:
“The modified mice ate more and moved less than their normal counterparts, but stayed skinny even on a high-fat diet.”
More food and less exercise without packing on pounds? Sign me up!
Better yet, LiveScience added that the altered mice “had normal blood pressure, and no increased risk of heart disease and diabetes that usually come with a high-fat diet.” Meaning that this solution has uses beyond taking America’s burgeoning obesity levels down a notch. It could save lives, too.
Unfortunately, a drug that shuts down 2-AG production doesn’t exist yet. So we’ll have to wait a while to see this solution put to the test in humans.
That’s too bad, since now I’m seriously craving a Big Mac.